Seoul urged not to put pre-conditions to North Korea

By agency reporter
July 2, 2008

The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev Dr Samuel Kobia has urged South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to "take urgent measures to strengthen inter-Korean relationships without any pre-conditions".

In a 1 July letter to Lee, Kobia referred to the "new South Korean government's policy towards North Korea" as a source of "concern and disappointment as it negates the spirit of the joint declarations made by the two Koreas in the recent past". The new policy, says Kobia, could be "potentially hindering the efforts for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula".

President Lee's new policy towards North Korea, outlined in his inaugural speech, reverses the "sunshine" or "engagement policy" of the two previous South Korean governments, which churches in the country have hailed as characterized by reconciliation, cooperation, peace and co-prosperity. The new South Korean policy, considered "hostile" by the churches, ties economic cooperation to the pre-condition of denuclearization amongst other measures.

The National Council of Churches in [South] Korea (NCCK) has requested the government to "abolish [its] antagonistic policy", to respect previous agreements and to provide humanitarian aid including food assistance and economic cooperation to North Korea "without any condition". The WCC general secretary's letter to President Lee responded to a direct request of support from the NCCK.

Mentioning the recent demolition of the cooling tower in the nuclear complex at Yongbyon, Kobia's letter says the WCC is "greatly encouraged" by the "recent progress that has been made in multilateral efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons programmes". The "news that the United States administration is lifting sanctions against North Korea and removing the country from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism" is also a "heartening" sign.

The WCC letter reaffirms the Council's endorsement of the UN initiatives to "eliminate all nuclear arms" and of the full terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as well as its support of those who pray and yearn for the "reunification of the Korean peninsula".

In a separate 1 July letter to the WCC member churches in South Korea, the NCCK and the Korean Christian Federation (North Korea), Kobia expressed his hope that the Yongbyon development will "encourage" the six-party talks held by both Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the US, which should "move into the next phase".

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