8 April 2003 A senior United Nations adviser said today that the current crisis surrounding the restart of the nuclear programme in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) might in the end pave the way for a permanent settlement to the issue.
"Perhaps if there is anything good that can come out of this crisis is that it may well prepare the way for the kind of comprehensive, permanent settlement of this issue, which I think everybody wants and I think is achievable," Maurice Strong, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Adviser, said on the eve of a Security Council meeting to discuss the situation.
In a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York on his recent mission to the DPRK, Mr. Strong told reporters that his activities since the beginning of the year have focused primarily on three areas: humanitarian aid, long-term economic development and the country's nuclear programme.
Since 1995, the UN has been responsible for coordinating and orchestrating the humanitarian assistance to the DPRK, Mr. Strong noted. Although that pipeline was running dry, the donor response to the Secretary-General's recent appeal for new humanitarian supplies has been very encouraging in the short-term. However, the longer-term prospects remain somewhat tenuous.
On the longer-term development issues, Mr. Strong said, "You cannot divorce peace and security in this area from the economic security of North Korea. They have been undertaking some reforms, they have been trying to prepare themselves to be more actively cooperating with, or seeking the cooperation of, the international community in terms of their own economic development."
As for the controversies arising from the nuclear issue, Mr. Strong noted that there was something of a paradox "in that both sides seem to be willing to move in the direction that the other is requiring, yet they still have not been able to agree on the modalities of a meeting."
The Secretary-General's role in the use of his good offices was not to substitute for any of their negotiations, but to be willing to be helpful in seeing whether the gap that now separates the two parties in terms of the modalities of meeting could be bridged, Mr. Strong said.
"Peace is necessary here...it's unthinkable, it would be horrendous for this to escalate into conflict," he added. "I'm satisfied that none of the parties want this, but all are prepared for it."