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(photo credit: AP [file])
As a strong regional power, Israel has a key role to play in demonstrating a firm international consensus opposing North Korea in the wake of its claimed nuclear test Monday, according to South Korean Ambassador to Israel Shin Kak-Soo.
"What we need is to show the North Korean leadership that the international community is very strong and has united to deter the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea, and Israel is a very important player in the Middle East," Shin told The Jerusalem Post.
He said South Korea welcomed Israel's condemnation of the nuclear test.
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A Foreign Ministry statement called the test "an irresponsible and provocative act that could pose a serious threat to the regional stability of Northeast Asia and to global and international security."
It also said that "Israel reiterated its call to continue the moratorium on nuclear tests and expects North Korea to stop any action that would worsen the situation."
Shin said the international community must exhibit a "strong and resolute" response and "should send a clear message to any state attempting to acquire nuclear weapons that that state should choose nuclear weapons or normal life in the international community."
South Korea backed an urgent United Nations Security Council meeting on the topic, though Shin wouldn't discuss what specific steps the Asian democracy would like to see the council take. He alluded to the "possibility" of UN sanctions but added it was "too early" to talk about a military option.
Shin warned that North Korea's actions could trigger an arms race in the region as well as have implications for Iran, another country seeking nuclear capabilities in the face of global opposition.
Shin stressed that South Korea remains committed to non-proliferation, but noted that he expected "rising tensions on the Korean peninsula" in light of Monday's events.
Years of improving relations between the two countries have now been set back after what Shin termed a "flagrant violation" by North Korea of international agreements aimed at de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. More widely, the nuclear test could strengthen efforts among Japanese to revise their constitution to allow for a normalized military force, while China has also reacted negatively to North Korea's moves.
But Shin did point to one positive sign Monday - the Security Council's nomination of South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon as the next UN secretary-general. Ban will be the only candidate submitted for approval by the General Assembly.
Shin would not speculate as to whether the timing of North Korea's test was intended as an expression of displeasure at the presumed selection of Ban, as some have suggested. But Shin did welcome the move given the tense situation with his country's northern neighbor.
"The overwhelming support for his [Ban's] appointment might be a good signal of support for South Korea's cause in the resolution of North Korea's nuclear standoff," he said.
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