APEC nations urge N. Korea to end nuclear weapons program

Monday, October 28, 2002

SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico -- Leaders of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group issued stern messages on Sunday that North Korea should end its nuclear weapons program and that terrorism in the Pacific Rim would not be tolerated.

By making terrorism and the region's newly renewed concern about North Korean nuclear arms the central point of their post-conference action plan, the leaders codified the emergence of the economic group's annual meetings as a geopolitical forum.

The leaders donned in white guayaberas -- traditional hot-weather Mexican shirts of embroidered cotton -- and posed for cameras before a stunning backdrop of clear skies and a calm Sea of Cortez. The three women chiefs of state, from New Zealand, Indonesia and the Philippines, wore brightly colored huipiles -- embroidered smocks traditionally worn by Mexico's indigenous women.

The tranquil setting belied a tough message to North Korea, which was delivered well after the leaders had issued a more sedate list of declarations about tighter customs controls on commercial shipments and financial deals to more easily identify possible terrorists' transactions.

APEC leaders called on North Korea to "visibly honor its commitment to give up nuclear weapons programs." That statement was slightly stronger than what South Korea's and Japan's leaders said Saturday after their meeting with President Bush, urging the Pyongyang government to "dismantle this program in a prompt and verifiable manner."

The messages about North Korea, as tough as they seemed for a meeting created for settling economic squabbles, did not go as far as the U.S. president had hoped. Bush, who gave no parting comments before flying back to the United States Sunday afternoon, had come to Mexico hoping APEC would issue a strong condemnation.

In an address closing the conference, Mexican President Vicente Fox sounded the over-arching theme that combating terrorism is essential if economic reforms are to take hold in the Pacific Rim.

"We condemn in the strongest terms recent terrorist acts in the APEC region and reaffirm our determination to enhance cooperation in countering and responding to terrorism," Fox said. "We adopted the declaration of Los Cabos on the fight against terrorism and the promotion of growth, to which we pledge ourselves to a series of concrete steps to protect and make more efficient the flow of commerce, finance, and information."

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