May 17, 2006

S. Korea tells North to follow Libya, seize moment

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea urged communist North Korea
on Wednesday to follow Libya's lead and seize the chance for a
better future by abandoning its pursuit of nuclear weapons and
improving ties with the United States.

Washington restored full diplomatic ties with longtime foe
Libya on Monday, rewarding Tripoli for scrapping its weapons of
mass destruction programs and signaling incentives for Iran and
North Korea if they do the same.

"It is a good example of the brighter future that awaits
when you give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,"
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon told reporters,
referring to the renewed U.S.-Libya ties.

A Libyan official said the U.S. move would open the way for
investment in its energy sector, which it badly needs. As an
interim step in improving ties, Washington lifted a broad trade
embargo on Libya in 2004. Tripoli will soon be removed from the
list of state sponsors of terrorism, Washington said.

"We urge North Korea to understand there will be a brighter
future when it gives up its nuclear programs and returns to the
six-party talks at the earliest time," Ban said.

"We also believe that relations between the United States
and North Korea will improve for the better," he added.

The six-party talks involve the two Koreas, the United
States, Japan, Russia and China.

A loose agreement of goals for the North to give up its
nuclear programs in return for aid and better ties with
regional powers was reached in September, but no progress has
been made on implementing the deal.

Some analysts have said recently that both Pyongyang and
Washington had lost the urgency to negotiate a workable plan to
put the agreement into action and that the talks may have
entered a long period of dormancy, if not already dead and

Denying Washington had given up on efforts to seek a
diplomatic solution, Ban said the chief U.S. negotiator to the
talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, would
visit Seoul on May 25 to discuss plans to resume negotiations.

The talks have hit a snag since the last round in November
and as Washington imposed a crackdown on firms it suspects of
aiding the North in illicit activities.

North Korea has said the crackdown represents sanctions
designed to topple its leadership and demanded an end before it
would return to the table.

U.S.-Libya relations turned around after Tripoli decided in
December 2003 to give up its weapons programs.

Experts say impoverished North Korea is unable to feed its
23 million people and its industrial base is almost
nonexistent, while it pumps scarce resources into its weapons