Seoul (AsiaNews/KT) Human rights groups from nine Asian and European countries have called on the current South Korean Foreign Minister and United Nations Secretary-General-elect Ban Ki-moon to pay special attention to the human rights situation in North Korea. The joint petition, which was signed by people in South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Norway and Germany, was delivered after the announcement that Mr Ban will visit China next Friday.
During the visit he is set to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao to discuss pending issues, including North Korea's nuclear provocations and ways to resume the six-party talks. He will make this visit in his capacity as the next UN secretary-general.
The visit comes just one week after Beijing's high-profile delegation, led by State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan, went to Pyongyang to deliver a message to North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il.
Back home, the delegation said that the 'dear leader' was sorry for the nuclear test and ready to stop them if the United States reduced pressure on his country.
In the meantime, the international community is readying itself to intercept and inspect North Korean ships looking for banned cargo based on the UN resolution adopted by the Security Council after North Korea conducted a nuclear test on October 9.
Australia is putting its navy at the disposal of the UN to enforce sanctions. "It is possible, consistent with the United Nations resolution, that we may have one of our ships supporting the United Nations and international interdiction of ships that might be going in and out of North Korea with precursors or weapons of mass destruction,"' Australian defence Minister Brendan Nelson said.
Japanese news media are reporting that Japan too could use both the Navy and the Air Force to inspect ships going to North Korea via the Tsushima and Okinawa Straits on its western and southern coastlines. To this aim torpedo-boat catchers and spotter planes P-3C AWACS endowed with radars will be used.
More generally, Tokyo wants a real air blockade, a freeze on North Korean leaders' foreign bank accounts, and a broader ban that would not only include goods with potential military use but also luxury items.