S Korea: Row won't affect nuclear talks

South Korea has played down the impact of President Roh Moo-hyun's impeachment on talks about North Korea's nuclear aims.

    Ban Ki-moon sees little impact on talks on N Korea's nuclear plans

    Friday's opposition parliamentary vote to impeach Roh for breaking election laws hit financial markets, sparked nightly protests by thousands of candle-waving South Koreans and thrust the country into political and economic uncertainty. 

    In the first fallout for North-South Korean ties, Seoul cancelled bilateral economic talks planned for Monday after Pyongyang asked for a venue switch to the North because of the political uncertainty. 

    "Separate issues"

    But South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon saw little impact on the separate six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear plans.

    "The North Korean nuclear issue and impeachment are completely separate issues," he told reporters on Monday

    "If North Korea is passive or decides to sit out a future round because of impeachment, we will have to question North Korea's commitment to resolving the nuclear issue peacefully." 

    He said six-way talks could be held in working groups next month and then once more before the main delegates from China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States met again. 

    South Korea's Constitutional Court has six months to decide whether to uphold the vote, and Prime Minister Goh Kun is acting president during that time. The court looks set to decide its timetable at a meeting on Thursday.

    Goh has vowed to stabilise financial markets in Asia's fourth-largest economy - they rebounded on Monday. 

    More rallies planned 

    South Korean President Roh Moo
    was impeached on Friday

    In a sign it wants to keep the Korean economy on track amid crisis, the government said it would seek an extra budget if necessary, but had no immediate plans to do so. 

    Police said they expected nightly protests in Seoul this week with about 10,000 people. Although technically illegal, the police have not moved to stop the protests so far. 

    "It is physically impossible to break up a rally with tens of thousands of people," said government spokesman Jung Soon-kyun. "Fortunately the people are maintaining order and the police do not see an unfortunate development." 

    Monday's rally drew less than 4000 people by police estimates, however, as authorities asked the crowd to stick to the sidewalk. 

    "We'll do that even if we don't like it because getting these rallies stopped would be exactly what the opposition would like to see," a 27-year-old student, Chung Sung-ryong, said. 

    Reassuring people

    "I also earnestly ask the people to cooperate for social stability and the recovery of economic momentum so the world can change concern over our status now to constant trust."

    Goh Kun,
    Prime Minister

    Goh took out advertisements in all the country's main newspapers on Monday to reassure people his government would do its best to run the country and stabilise financial markets. 

    "I also earnestly ask the people to cooperate for social stability and the recovery of economic momentum so the world can change concern over our status now to constant trust," he said. 

    Goh, a 66-year-old bureaucrat, has urged military forces facing the communist North to be vigilant. On Sunday, North Korea said Washington had plotted the impeachment. 

    Watching political stability

    Foreign investors closely watch political stability in South Korea, which already faced a standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions and the task of coaxing the economy back to full recovery after a consumer credit bubble burst. 

    Justice Minister Kang Gum-sil said the 15 April parliamentary election at the heart of the impeachment row would go ahead as planned, because it was enshrined in law. 

    Chung Dong-young, head of the Uri party that backs Roh, told reporters people would judge the opposition Grand National party and Millennium Democratic party in the election. 

    "I dare to predict that not only the Millennium Democratic
    party but also the Grand National party will be expelled from
    mainstream South Korean politics at the election," he said.
    "They have lost ethical and historical integrity."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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