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Yun tries for consensus on Pyongyang as after ‘83 bombing

Feb 25,2017
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se is trying to build a consensus with some 10 countries on how to deal with North Korea in the aftermath of the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of leader Kim Jong-un.

Yun told reporters in London Wednesday that the assassination in Malaysia last week, which Seoul believes Pyongyang orchestrated, would prove to be “an opportunity for the international community to take diverse measures.”

“The international community is condemning North Korea because when it joined the United Nations, it promised to carry out its duties as a member state but is ignoring and violating UN Security Council resolutions.”

The European Union is expected to announce unilateral sanctions soon on North Korea, said Yun, which will likely “hurt” North Korea. Pyongyang conducted an intermediate-range ballistic missile test on Feb. 12, which was followed by the shocking murder of Kim Jong-nam the following day at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Following a Group of 20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bonn and the Munich Security Conference, Yun headed to London for bilateral talks with British foreign secretary Boris Johnson on Wednesday at Lancaster House in London.

Yun is calling for a similar response by the international community to one in 1983, after North Korea tried to kill South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan in Myanmar, which resulted in the Burmese government cutting diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

Yun told Johnson that he explained Myanmar’s cutting of diplomatic ties with Pyongyang in 1983 to 20 foreign ministers recently.

“If North Korea is confirmed to be behind [the assassination], this could lead to the international community viewing this as a state-led act of terrorism that infringes upon the sovereignty of Malaysia, which could naturally lead to discussion of this issue in the global human rights arena.”

If proven true, this “constitutes a very serious violation of the international order,” he said.

On Oct. 9, 1983, North Korea bombed the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon in an attempt to assassinate President Chun, who narrowly missed the attack because traffic caused him to be late for a ceremony to commemorate Burmese nationalist hero Gen. Aung San (1915-1947). The attack killed 17 Koreans - including the deputy prime minister and foreign minister - and four Burmese nationals. The Burmese government found that the terror attack was linked to the North Korean military and suspended diplomatic relations with Pyongyang

Yun said that because the assassination of Kim Jong-nam happened in such a “cruel and inhumane manner,” the United Kingdom and European Union’s perception on the North Korea issue “is at a different level than in the past.”

This indicates that European and G-20 countries could be considering strong action against the North.

Yun kicked off a two-day trip to London Tuesday, following visits to Germany and Romania.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that in three-hour talks between Johnson and Yun, the two discussed North Korea issues, the situation in European following Brexit, and how to bolster bilateral cooperation. They also discussed violent extremism, antipiracy and other global concerns.

Yun lauded the United Kingdom for its role in leading an international response to North Korea’s two nuclear tests last year as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and requested Britain to “continue to take part in strengthening comprehensive sanctions and pressure in a situation where there is not much time left to block North Korea’s nuclear armaments.”

Johnson expressed serious concerns over North Korea’s accelerated nuclear and missile capabilities and agreed to continue to cooperate closely with Seoul on bolstering pressure on the North, including the international community’s implementation of UN Security Council resolutions. Johnson added that Britain will work toward “strengthening and supplementing preexisting EU sanctions on Pyongyang.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]