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ASIA: Rudd calls for 'harsh' North Korea sanctions

By Vijay Joshi
30 May 2009 1:36 AM

SINGAPORE, May 30 AP - Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called for "harsh" sanctions against North Korea for conducting nuclear tests, saying the communist nation will only respond to a unified show of strength by the world.

Mr Rudd told the opening of a regional security conference in Singapore on Friday that the international community, through the UN Security Council, must act tough toward North Korea since verbal statements of condemnation have been ineffective.

"If I thought there was something else in there that would work I would embrace that. But I believe strength and resolve is what is necessary to command the attention and respect" of North Korea, Mr Rudd said.

They "respond only to a unified demonstration of strength", he told the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of the region's defence ministers organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates is expected to meet with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea during the gathering to discuss the Korean crisis.

North Korea further ratcheted up tensions by test-firing another short-range missile on Friday after conducting a nuclear test on Monday.

It has warned it will retaliate if provoked, raising fears of a military clash, particularly in disputed waters off South Korea.

"Regrettably, the conclusion that I have reached is that one of the only effective ways of seeking the attention of the government in Pyongyang is by a harsh range of financial measures of the type that existed at one point," Mr Rudd said.

"I believe they need to be re-embraced and hardened," he said.

The latest developments have destroyed all progress made in talks among China, the United States, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas on ending North Korea's nuclear program.

Mr Rudd said he has "enormous sympathy" for the countries involved in the six-party talks, especially China, North Korea's main economic and diplomatic ally, which bears the burden of ensuring that the North does not raise tensions further.

The UN Security Council is currently considering possible sanctions but the discussions are moving slowly. Russia says there is wide agreement among key world powers on what the resolution should include, but putting the elements together will take time because the issues are "complicated".

A draft of the proposed resolution is not expected to be circulated until next week.