Fri, Jun 01, 2012 - Page 5 News List

N Korea constitution states nuclear status

IT’S OFFICIAL:The isolated nation raised international alarm with its new self-styled status as a nuclear power in a move that will further strain its diplomatic relations

AFP, Seoul

North Korea’s new constitution proclaims its status as a nuclear-armed nation, complicating international efforts to persuade Pyongyang to abandon atomic weapons, analysts said yesterday.

An official Web site seen late on Wednesday released the text of the constitution following its revision during a parliamentary session on April 13.

“National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il turned our fatherland into an invincible state of political ideology, a nuclear-armed state and an indomitable military power, paving the ground for the construction of a strong and prosperous nation,” part of the preamble says.

The text was carried by the Naenara (My Nation) Web site.

The previous constitution, last revised on April 9, 2010, did not carry the term “nuclear-armed state.”

Following former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s death in December last year, the country revised the charter to consecrate achievements of the late leader, who was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un.

The North has been developing nuclear weapons for decades. Its official position has been that it needs them for self defense against a US nuclear threat, but that it is willing in principle to scrap the atomic weaponry.

Under a September 2005 deal reached during six-nation negotiations, Pyongyang agreed to dismantle its nuclear programs in return for economic and diplomatic benefits and security guarantees.

However, six-party talks on implementing the deal have been stalled since December 2008. The North has staged two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.

“This makes it clear that the North has little intention of giving up nuclear programs under any circumstances,” Cheon Sung-whun of the South Korea’s Institute for National Unification said. “If there is a demand at the negotiation table to give up nuclear weapons, the North Koreans would say it would be a breach of the constitution.”

North Korea has long been in confrontation with the US and its allies over its nuclear and missile programs.

Its April 13 long-range rocket launch, purportedly a peaceful mission to put a satellite into orbit, further dimmed prospects for a diplomatic settlement.

The constitution “is certainly bad news for participants in the six-party talks,” professor Kim Keun-sik at Kyungnam University in Changwon said. “It will make it harder to persuade the North to give up nuclear weapons through diplomacy.”

However, Kim Keun-sik cautioned against reading too much into what was intended as part of a eulogy for Kim Jong-il.

“The North has been touting its nuclear status as one of the key achievements accredited to the late leader and the new constitution factors this in,” he said. “This can hardly be interpreted as a message that it will stick to its nuclear weapons no matter what.”

Kim also said North Korea’s constitution can easily be amended once its ruler decides to do so, noting it was revised twice in as many years.

The six-party talks that began in 2003 are chaired by China and also include the two Koreas, the US, Russia and Japan.

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