'North Korea Should Be More Realistic'

Monday, October 16, 2006

Last week the members of the United Nations selected a new secretary general -- the foreign minister of South Korea, Ban Ki Moon, 62. On Saturday in New York, Ban discussed his new role with Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth. Excerpts:

Q: The Security Council is voting on sanctions that will include some kind of blockade and inspection of certain goods entering North Korea. How will North Korea respond?

A: North Korea has declared very defiantly that if the Security Council adopts any sanctions, they will regard this as a declaration of war. This is very worrisome and shows total disrespect of the United Nations.

What role do you see for yourself as secretary general in this dispute?

I think that I would be in a much better position than any other previous secretary general -- as I come from Korea and have experience. I will try to coordinate with the concerned parties. If necessary, I will take my own initiative, which will include visiting North Korea and meeting with North Korean leaders.

Will you meet with President Kim Jong Il?

I hope so. When the secretary general of the United Nations visits [a country], normally the secretary general deals with the leaders of the member states.

People say that Kim Jong Il is not so normal.

But he has met many leaders of the world.

Some argue that the recent test is a reaction by North Korea to the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. on the Macao-based Banco Delta Asia in 2005 right after North Korea and the U.S. appeared to have arrived at a political deal.

First of all, the financial measures imposed on the North Korean accounts in Banco Delta Asia were because of the suspicion of North Korean illicit activities, including counterfeiting [of U.S. currency]. It's wrong that North Korea has linked this issue to the six-party process.

[Recently] the American government has said that if and when North Korea returns to the six-party talks, they will be prepared to have bilateral discussions . . . on all pending measures, including these financial restrictions.

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