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N. K disappointment in fight against chemical weapons: world body

March 30, 2010 - 18:04 By
The top world body on the use of chemical weapons expressed disappointment Friday at North Korea, which remains one of only two Asian countries that refuse to join an international treaty banning such arms, according to Yonhap News.

The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also appealed to Pyongyang to sign the 1997 treaty "as a matter of urgency and without preconditions."

"The OPCW is disappointed at the lack of interaction with the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea, which together with Myanmar remain the only two countries in Asia that have not joined the Chemical Weapons Convention," Michael Luhan, a spokesman, said via e-mail.

The Democratic People`s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, is North Korea`s official title.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is implemented by the OPCW and remains to be signed by just eight countries, including North Korea, Israel, Syria and Egypt.

North Korea, which shares one of the world`s most fortified borders with South Korea, is estimated to have up to 5,000 tons of chemical-warfare agents, according to the defense ministry in Seoul.

The amount makes North Korea one of the world`s largest possessors of such arms, considered weapons of mass destruction, along with its nuclear devices and ballistic missiles.

Luhan said his organization has yet to secure the right to inspect the North Korean stockpile of chemical weapons, but voiced optimism the country will eventually become a member of the CWC.

"As the DPRK is not a state party to the convention, we have no legal mandate to conduct inspections on its territory and hence cannot assess its possible activities in this area," Luhan said.

"We are optimistic that the DPRK will recognize the many benefits from joining the convention and engage with the OPCW to being that process," he said.

Luhan emphasized the April 2008 conference in which the 188 OPCW members "strongly urged the remaining states to ratify or accede to the convention as a matter of urgency and without preconditions."

South Korea is an original signatory to the pact. It hosted a Asian training course this week on ways of dealing with chemical weapons in Seoul and its surrounding region.

In a recent commentary, OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter said, "there is no justification, moral or strategic, in retaining the chemical weapons option."

"Chemical weapons have decreasing strategic significance and are basically instruments of terror against civilians," he said.