Monday, November 13, 2006

South Korea Refusing To Go Along With U.S. Searches Of North Korean Ships

South Korea is worried about Kim Jong Il's possible reaction to Washington's plan to search North Korean ships for prohibited weapons.

The South Korean government is set to announce on Monday that it will not expand its participation in the US-led proliferation security initiative (PSI) despite North Korea's nuclear test last month.

The decision, based on Seoul's fears that increased confrontation at sea could lead to military conflict, will disappoint Washington as it presses for a tough, united response to the North's test.

Members of the United Nations will report on Tuesday how they plan to implement Resolution 1718, which calls for countries to stop cargo going to and from North Korea in order to check for weapons of mass destruction or related supplies, bans trade in heavy conventional weapons and luxury goods and urges countries to freeze funds connected with North Korea's non-conventional arms programmes.

As part of its deliberations on the resolution, Seoul has been considering whether to join the PSI, which it currently observes, under indirect pressure from the US. Both Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, and Robert Joseph, undersecretary for arms control, are understood to have asked, in a roundabout way, for South Korea to sign up fully.

However, South Korea, which favours "kid gloves" treatment of its northern neighbour, is worried that its participation could antagonise Pyongyang and perhaps even lead to war.


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