06/27/2006, 00.00
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Seoul to revoke aid to North if missile crisis breaks out

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

The South Korean government has no intention of ignoring Pyongyang's threats, while Washington is installing Patriot anti-aircraft missiles in its Japanese bases. Seoul's Foreign Affairs Minister is in China to seek a joint diplomatic solution.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The South Korean government is considering "clear and unequivocal measures" to deal with Pyongyang in the crisis sparked by its feared plan to carry out test launches of long-range missiles pointed towards Japan and the United States. This was declared yesterday by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ban Ki-moon, during a National Assembly session.

During his intervention, Ban reconfirmed Seoul's readiness to "indissolubly link missile testing with provision of assistance to the North Korean population." He said: "Our Unification Minister has already said it will be difficult for Seoul to continue assisting the North if it launches the missile, and I think this is our government's stance."

"At the moment," continued the minister in Parliament, "we are in close contact with countries involved in this crisis: Seoul will not just pass North Korea's attitude by as if nothing is happening." Ban said the nations involved – South Korea, the United States and Japan – were "jointly exercising diplomatic efforts to prevent the worst".

Possible moves include issuing a joint document calling on Pyongyang to stop all tests. The same move was adopted in 1998 during the missile crisis with Japan that seriously jeopardized Pyongyang's diplomatic negotiations with the rest of the world.

The minister was speaking a few hours before leaving for Beijing for his first visit since 1998; he will seek to identify a common strategy with the Chinese government to manage the crisis. Ban, describing China as a "key ally for a peaceful solution of the crisis", will spend two days in the Chinese capital, and will meet Li Zhaoxing, his Chinese counterpart, and Tang Jiaxua, State Councillor.

Meanwhile, Tokyo and Washington have reached a military agreement allowing the US government to install Patriot missiles – the best anti-aircraft missiles in the world – in its Japanese bases.

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