HC Deb 10 June 2003 vol 406 cc536-8
12. Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West)

If he will make a statement on bilateral relations with North Korea. [117950]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell)

The UK established diplomatic relations with the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea in December 2000 and opened an embassy in Pyongyang in July 2001. We believe that this provides a useful channel of communication to impress directly on the DPRK regime that it has to desist from developing nuclear weapons and must re-engage with the international community through multilateral dialogue.

Rachel Squire

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Does he agree that although engaging in any constructive dialogue with North Korea is extremely difficult, it is vital in the interests of regional and global security to keep the channels of communication open? Will he join me in welcoming the recent statements by China and Russia and the G8 summit on North Korea's nuclear ambitions? What role is the UK playing in developing and supporting the international partnership of North Korea's closest neighbours?

Mr. Rammell

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is certainly the case that pursuing diplomatic negotiations with the DPRK regime is a challenging task to undertake. Nevertheless, it is crucial that we do so and we remain engaged with all the key international partners. That is certainly the case in respect of China and Russia, and I have had detailed discussions about the issue with my counterparts in those countries.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the initiative of the Chinese Government in calling for and hosting the recent trilateral talks in Beijing. That was a very helpful and positive step forward. Additionally, we remain engaged and in contact with South Korea and Japan. It is crucial that North Korea comes back to the negotiating table and agrees to give up its nuclear weapons programme so that we can move forward.