Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

John Key makes North Korean nuclear plea

John Key is greeted by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Photo / Getty Images
John Key is greeted by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Photo / Getty Images

Prime Minister John Key has used the memory of the Korean War in which 45 New Zealanders died to refresh calls for progress in de-nuclearising North Korea during his visit to Seoul for a Nuclear Security Summit which has been overshadowed by North Korea.

Mr Key visited the Kapyong valley yesterday for a wreath laying ceremony at the Anzac memorial for the soldiers in the Korean War.

The valley was the scene for the Battle of Kapyong in 1951 in which New Zealand and Australian troops fought alongside Canada and Korea to try to halt the Chinese invasion.
In his speech, Mr Key said the visit to the memorial was a reminder that it was important to stay vigilant in defending freedom.

Mr Key is in South Korea for the Nuclear Security Summit - but the issue of North Korea has overshadowed the lead. North Korea has announced plans to launch a rocket in April - plans its critics argue amount to a ballistic missile test in contravention of its recent agreement with the United States.

North Korea had reached an agreement with the United States to allow weapons inspectors back in to the country and to halt all ballistic missile testing in return for food aid. That agreement was deemed important for further progress in the Six Party talks between North Korea, South Korea, China, the USA, Russia and Japan aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon a nuclear weapons programme. The talks were set up after North Korea withdrew from the Non Proliferation Treaty in 2003.

At the wreath laying ceremony, attended by representatives from Australia and North Korea, Mr Key referred to the sinking of the Korean frigate Cheonan and shelling of South Korean citizens in 2010.

"These incidents remind us that the security challenges of over 60 years on the peninsula remain unresolved. New Zealand continues to stand with South Korea. We encourage dialogue and the resumption of the six party talks as the most appropriate mechanism to resolve the pressing issue of de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula."

North Korea has claimed its planned launch is to launch a satellite into space - but many countries have called on it to abandon the plans and US President Barack Obama is due to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao today. He is expected to encourage the China president to also condemn North Korea's plans and use China's closer relationship with North Korea to apply pressure.

Mr Key said New Zealand continued to provide personnel for monitoring the armistice - an involvement which reflected the strong defence relationship between South Korea and New Zealand.

Next year marks the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, during which 33 New Zealanders died trying to repel the invasion by North Korea forces. A further 12 died between then and 1957 while policing the Armistice.

Nearly 5000 New Zealanders served in KayForce - the New Zealand contingent acting under UN command and a further 1300 served on naval frigates both during the war and for four years after the 1953 armistice.

He said New Zealanders who had served in the war would be pleased by South Korea as it was today - citing economic advances, a strong democracy and commitment to human rights. He said South Korea was now one of New Zealand's most important partners.

- NZ Herald

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