Sun, Jun 27, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan standing firm on opposition to nuclear weapons

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite North Korea's threat to conduct nuclear weapons tests, Taiwan's stance against nuclear arms remains unchanged, Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said yesterday.

"It has always been the Democratic Progressive Party's policy to establish a nuclear-free homeland and to safeguard regional peace and stability. Our stance has not changed, despite North Korea's nuclear ambitions," Chen said yesterday afternoon.

While the problem of North Korea's nuclear ambitions is not expected to be resolved soon, Chen said that the six-nation talks among US, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas should continue.

"What concerns us is not whether we would develop our own nuclear programs, but whether our national interest would be sacrificed during the six-way talks," Chen said.

As negotiators ended their final day of talks yesterday, US officials admitted that there had been little tangible progress in the four days of meetings. All parties, however, agreed in principle to meet again in September .

On Friday, Pyongyang warned that it would carry out a nuclear test if its demands for "aid" were not met.

The threat was made in a two-hour meeting between US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly and North Korean negotiators.

Experts believe that North Korea could have as many as eight nuclear weapons and that it retains the capacity to make many more, increasing the chances that neighboring countries could join in a nuclear arms race. North Korea's threat raised doubts that even minor progress could be achieved at a third round of talks.

A BBC World Service broadcast on Friday said that Pyongyang's threat could provoke Japan, South Korea and even Taiwan to re-examine their policies regarding nuclear arms.

"Any move by the Pyongyang government to conduct a nuclear test would alter the whole Asian security landscape," the BBC report said. "Other countries like Japan, South Korea and even Taiwan might look again at their non-nuclear status."

According to the BBC, Washington's nightmare is not only a nuclear-armed North Korea but also the fear that Pyongyang could transfer nuclear weapons technology to other countries -- or even to terrorist groups.

Seeking to break a 20-month deadlock in the North Korean crisis, the six-party negotiations focused on a US offer of conditional aid and security guarantees.

The new plan involves immediate rewards for North Korea -- heavy fuel oil from South Korea -- if it agrees to dismantle its weapons program. The plan was presented by US diplomats as a way to test the North's intentions.

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