Engagement is best way to handle nuclear problems, says WCC chief

By staff writers
16 Feb 2007

Constructive engagement to deal with threats like nuclear proliferation is better than aggression - that is the message of the head of a global association of Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and indigenous churches concerning developments involving North Korea.

His comments will also be seen as having implications for the way the West handles the current argument between Iran and international non-proliferation bodies.

World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Dr Samuel Kobia welcomed the 13 February 2007 agreement at the Six Party Talks in Beijing, under which the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) committed itself to take initial steps towards de-nuclearisation in return for energy and economic aid.

The agreement "is a major breakthrough in efforts to restore peace and normalcy in the region", says Dr Kobia, a Kenyan Methodist minister, in a statement issued by the WCC yesterday.

The new agreement, he says, "vindicates the World Council of Churches' long-standing policy of engagement and dialogue to resolve tension and conflict in North East Asia".

The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, a member of the WCC fellowship, has also welcomed the agreement and urged that the Six Party states "develop a concrete road map for the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" as well as for the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the DPRK and the United States and Japan.

The full statement from Dr Kobia reads as follows:

The World Council of Churches, since the early 1980s, has monitored developments relating to peace and security in North East Asia. Of particular concern to the Council was the division of Korea and the consequential tension and the potential threat of conflict in the peninsula.

It was in this background that the 9th October 2006, testing of nuclear device by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), prompted a quick response from the WCC that amongst others called for the international community to put nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation firmly back on track. This was consistent with the August 2004, Executive Committee statement that called on DPRK to abandon all uranium enrichment and plutonium extraction programmes. The statement also called for lifting of sanctions against DPRK and urged that due consideration be given to its security concerns.

The agreement reached on 13th February, at the Six Party Talks in Beijing, in which Pyongyang pledged to close its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, in return for nuclear fuel, is a major breakthrough in efforts to restore peace and normalcy in the region. The breakthrough vindicates WCC long standing policy of engagement and dialogue to resolve tension and conflict in North East Asia. The agreement produced a sixty-day timetable under which DPRK will take initial steps towards de-nuclearisation in return for energy and economic aid.

The World Council of Churches welcomes the agreement as it reaffirms WCC's conviction that conflict flash points can be more effectively addressed regionally. It is recognition that regional mechanisms and common security systems need to be encouraged. It is now imperative for the Six Party states and the international community to closely monitor the progress during the sixty-day timetable that has been set for implementation of the condition imposed on the parties and to ensure the momentum of the talks.

The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, a member of the WCC fellowship also welcomed the agreement and urged: "the Six Party states to develop a concrete road map for the de-nuclearisation of the Korea peninsula and for the normalisation of diplomatic relations between DPRK and the United States and between DPRK and Japan". It has called on the South Korean government to play a key role in these efforts.

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