18 March 2005
Deputy President Jacob Zuma says South Africa’s move to strengthen ties with North Korea should not be misinterpreted.
North Korean Vice President Yang Hyong Sop arrived in the country on Wednesday for a five-day official state visit – the highest-level visit by anyone from his country to date.
Yang and Zuma are expected to sign an agreement paving the way for regular diplomatic consultation between the two countries.
Speaking at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday, Zuma said that South Africa had ties with many countries with a nuclear capacity, adding that SA and North Korea would continue to explore ways of harnessing nuclear technology for sustainable use, not for destructive purposes.
“Nuclear capacity should be used for the betterment of communities”, Zuma said.
The North Korean delegation, which includes Choe Su Hon, the deputy foreign minister, and Hong Chang, the director-general of the ministry of trade, briefed Zuma on the status of the six-nation talks on that country’s nuclear disarmament.
North Korea has boycotted the talks with South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the US since 2003, and in February 2004 made an unconfirmed declaration that it possessed nuclear weapons.
Yang blamed the stalemate on the United States’ “hostile policy” towards his country, demanding an apology from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who recently labelled North Korea an “outpost of tyranny”.
He said that his country was prepared to participate in the talks if “appropriate conditions” were put in place. “In short, the ball is in the US court”, he said.
Yang acknowledged the peacekeeping role South Africa was playing in Africa, saying this had raised South Africa’s prestige internationally.
Zuma said he would honour an invitation to visit North Korea as soon as he was able to.
South Africa dismantled the apartheid state’s secretly built nuclear arsenal in the early 1990s – becoming the first and so far the only country to construct nuclear weapons and subsequently voluntarily abandon its weapons programme – and since then has been active in promoting nuclear non-proliferation globally.