Clinton: N.Korea has "no friends", must denuclearize

PHUKET, Thailand Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:11am EDT

1 of 3. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiles as she leaves a press briefing during Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting on Thai island of Phuket July 23, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Bazuki Muhammad

PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) - North Korea has no friends left to shield it from the international community's demands that the country scrap its nuclear activities, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.

Clinton said many nations had told a low-level North Korean delegation at regional talks in Thailand that they were concerned by Pyongyang's recent "provocative" behavior, which has included nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Speaking at a news conference, Clinton said North Korea's pursuit of its nuclear ambitions could provoke an arms race in North Asia, one of the world's most dynamic regions and responsible for a sixth of the global economy.

"Our partners in the region understand that a nuclear North Korea has far-reaching consequences for the security future of northeast Asia ... This would serve no nation's interests," she said on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on the Thai resort island of Phuket.

"There is no place to go for North Korea, they have no friends left that will protect them from the international community's efforts to move toward denuclearization."

Clinton said the North Korean delegation gave no sign the country was interested in ending its nuclear program, which took center stage at Thursday's talks.

North Korea, bristling at being described by Clinton this week as behaving like an unruly child, responded in kind on Thursday, calling her vulgar and less than clever. The North's KCNA news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying her comments "suggests she is by no means intelligent".

"Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping," KCNA said.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Addressing foreign ministers and senior officials from Asia and Europe, Clinton said the United States would work through every avenue to persuade North Korea to eliminate its nuclear program and normalize relations with the world.

"The ASEAN Regional Forum can play an important role in achieving this outcome and for continuing to work vigorously to implement Resolution 1874," she said, referring to a U.N. Security Council measure agreed after North Korea's May 25 nuclear test.

She pointed to international cooperation in ensuring that a North Korean ship, tracked by the United States in June and July on suspicion of carrying banned arms, did not dock anywhere. It appeared headed toward Myanmar before turning around.

"The bottom line is this: If North Korea intends to engage in international commerce, its vessels must conform to the terms of 1874, or find no port," Clinton told the news conference.

Clinton said she was "gratified by Burma's willingness" to enforce the resolution to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

On Wednesday she said the United States was worried about possible nuclear technology transfers from North Korea to Myanmar, also known as Burma. [ID:nSP134559]

Clinton gave Pyongyang a choice between more sanctions if it refuses to end its nuclear activities and benefits if it does.

"Full normalization of relations, a permanent peace regime, and significant energy and economic assistance are all possible in the context of full and verifiable denuclearization," she said.

Ri Heung-sik, director general of North Korea's Foreign Ministry, told reporters the incentives were "nonsense".

NO LUXURY BOATS FOR KIM

In one indication of how sanctions have begun to bite North Korea, The Financial Times reported on Thursday that Italy has blocked the sale of two luxury yachts to North Korea believed to be destined for leader Kim Jong-il.

The sale of luxury goods to North Korea is banned under previous U.N. resolutions.

China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said while U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea should be implemented, all sides should work to avoid an escalation of tensions.

A final communique from the ARF meeting was issued late on Thursday after disagreement with the North Korean delegation over the wording, Thai officials said.

The statement said ministers from several countries condemned the recent nuclear test and missile launches and urged full implementation of U.N. resolutions against North Korea. In the document, the North Koreans blamed Washington for the tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Many experts on North Korea have concluded from the reclusive state's belligerence that Pyongyang wants to be recognized as a nuclear weapons state and will not end its atomic activities.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Kittipong Soonprasert and Ben Blanchard in Phuket and Jonathan Thatcher in Seoul; Writing by Dean Yates; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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