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North Korea

Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2006

Immediately following North Korea’s nuclear test in October, the Foreign Secretary had telephone conversations with her counterparts, including Chinese Foreign Minister Li. I also called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ambassador in London to the Foreign Office to make our views clear. On a previous visit to the region in July, I discussed the issues with interlocutors from China, as well as Japan and South Korea, and my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister had further talks during his visit in October. We remain in direct and regular contact with the Chinese Government on the issue, including through our ambassador in Beijing and via other high-level ministerial and official contacts. China has an instrumental role to play in the resumption of the six-party talks and in ensuring that North Korea complies with UN Security Council resolution 1718.

I thank the Minister for that answer. A few weeks ago, the Deputy Prime Minister told the House that he had had three hours of talks with the Chinese special envoy to North Korea at the end of October. Will the Minister tell us a little more about the content of those talks?

I do not want to be awkward and say, “No, because I wasn’t in the room when the discussions took place.” I can tell the hon. Gentleman, however, that if the Deputy Prime Minister spoke to the special envoy in the same way that I did, it will have been a very productive discussion.

Does the Minister accept that the situation in North Korea is a perfect illustration of why it is vital that we renew our nuclear deterrent? Does he agree that the argument that we are unlikely to use such a deterrent is not only wrong but dangerous when we are faced with an opponent such as North Korea, which accepts only one principle, namely, that might is right?

I take on board entirely what the hon. Gentleman says, and I thank him for his support of the Government’s position. It is also really important that we get the six-party talks going again. It is critical that we resume those discussions. We already have talks about the talks under negotiation, and several points remain under discussion to be agreed between the United States and China. I hope that the talks will resume soon.