Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said risks related to North Korea's nuclear problems should be addressed at next week's nuclear summit in Seoul, calling for global efforts to promote the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Stoltenberg also urged North Korea and Iran to not develop nuclear weapons, while expressing support for the long-stalled six-party talks on the North's denuclearization.
"I hope for very strong political message, that we need to do more for nuclear security and that we have to do more for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. And we have to address the recent risks related to nuclear programs in Iran and in North Korea," said Stoltenberg during an interview held at his office in Oslo on Wednesday prior to the second Nuclear Security Summit hosted by South Korea.
"So we strongly support all effort to promote non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. We urge Iran to allow international inspectors to be able to get full understanding of what their programs are aiming at. And we urge them not to develop nuclear weapons. Of course, we take the same approach when it comes to North Korea."
The Norwegian leader went on to say his country shares South Korea's concerns about proliferation, stressing international efforts to increase nuclear security, reach a better understanding and agreements related to the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and nuclear waste from nuclear power plants.
Stoltenberg also said Norway hopes to strengthen bilateral relations with South Korea, since there is great potential for developing further economic ties.
Representatives from 58 nations and four international organizations, including 45 heads of state, plan to attend the two-day summit.
Norway, which has no nuclear power plants, has been struggling to handle radioactive materials from a Russian nuclear submarine that sank near the Kola Peninsula off the east coast of Norway in 1967.
"For Norway, the most important issue for us is nuclear waste,"
Stoltenberg said. "What we need is a guideline for handling of nuclear waste for the production of nuclear power. And we need more transparency and more cooperation with the IAEA. Because by more cooperation and more guidelines, we can increase nuclear safety."
U.S. President Barack Obama launched the first summit in Washington two years ago. The Seoul summit is aimed at determining more concrete actions to lock down loose nuclear materials and to address the question of how to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists.
The Netherlands is scheduled to be picked as the next host of the biennial summit.
"I think we need to continue with the summits," Stoltenberg said. "We need summit to set agenda to increase focus and that was the important initiative set by President Obama."
On Monday, Stoltenberg will hold talks with his South Korean counterpart Kim Hwang-sik in Seoul for discussions on strengthening bilateral cooperation and exchanges in economic area.
"I appreciate opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Kim because that will contribute to the bilateral relationship,"
Stoltenberg said. "Close relationship is very important in trade but also in investments. For instance, energy sector and modern technology."
The 52-year-old leader served as State Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment from 1990 to 1991, as Minister of Industry from 1993 to 1996, and as Minister of Finance in 1997. He took the office in 2001 and has served three terms.
It will be his first visit to South Korea.
The following are excerpts from the interview with Stoltenberg.
Question: Why is the nuclear summit important and what meaning does it have?
Answer: I think the summit in Seoul will be a great importance because nuclear security is very important for the global community. We had the first summit in Washington. And it is really important that Republic of Korea has decided to host the second summit because the issues we are addressing are of great importance for so many people all over the world, related to nuclear energy, nuclear waste. And the non-proliferation is great importance to create more security all over the world.
Q: Does your country have any particular issue it would like to bring up at the summit?
A: First of all, we would like to take part in international efforts to increase nuclear security. We would like to much welcome President Lee and also Prime Minster Kim who have shown in the work to create more nuclear security. For Norway, the most important issue for us is nuclear waste related to nuclear submarines at the Kola Peninsula. In Norway, we don't have any nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons but we are neighbor to Russia. Since the Cold War, there have been submarines and other nuclear insulation facilities, and power plants related to those power productions.
There are security issues. We have worked with Russia to increase nuclear security at the peninsula which borders Norway
Q: Could you elaborate on that? Do you have any specific suggestions or ideas?
A: What we need is a guideline for the handling of nuclear waste for the production of nuclear power. And we need more transparency and more cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency because by more cooperation and through more guidelines, we can increase nuclear safety. And it is same for Norway. We have taken efforts together with Russian neighbor -- safely dismantling nuclear submarines and the safe handling of nuclear waste not only from submarines but also from power plants.
Q: North Korea has announced its intention to launch a rocket.
Is this issue included in the agenda or at least discussed at the summit?
A: The main focus of the summit is nuclear security and it's not nuclear disarmament conference. But of course, there is close relationship between traditional disarmament and work for the non-proliferation and nuclear security. Norway has asked Republic of Korea that we are very concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. So we strongly support all effort to promote non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. We urge Iran to allow international inspectors to be able to get full understanding of what their programs are aiming at. And we urge them not to develop nuclear weapons. Of course, we take the same approach when it comes to North Korea. We are glad that we are seeing some positive steps and some developments in positive direction. We very much believe that we should support the six-party dialogue.
Q: What results do you expect from this summit?
A: First, I hope for very strong political message, that we need to do more for nuclear security and that we have to do more for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. And we have to address the recent risks related to nuclear programs in Iran and in North Korea. I hope that we can reach better understanding, agreements related to the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is of great importance when it come to having transparency and guideline and better understanding of how we can handle the peaceful use of nuclear energy and nuclear waste from nuclear power plants.
Q: The Netherlands is considered the likely host of the next summit. How should future summits progress?
A: I think we need to continue with summits because even if there is very much important work going on between the summits. We need summit to set agenda to increase focus and that was the important initiative set by President Obama which led to the first summit in Washington. And that is also of importance of the initiative taken by President Lee and Prime Minister Kim to continue and to follow up initiative in Washington. I think we need more summits not because no only summits in themselves solve problem but because summits give political platform, political understanding and very much increase political attention on the importance of nuclear security. And then, we have to work both nationally in each country but also globally in international organizations to make concrete steps related to management of nuclear waste and guidelines on non-proliferations.
Q: What is your assessment of the current level of cooperation between South Korea and Norway?
A: Bilateral relationships between Republic of Korea and Norway are excellent. We are developing dialogue both when it comes to economic relations, trade and investments but also political dialogue. I appreciate very much opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Kim because that will contribute to the bilateral relationship. We are very much impressed by developments in Republic of Korea-- strong economic growth, development of modern society--. There are many companies which we are cooperating closely For instance, with ship builder, with engineering companies, with many different kinds of companies in (South) Korea.
Trade investments in (South) Korea and between two countries are very important
Q: From your perspective, what is the most important thing for strengthening bilateral ties between two countries this moment?
A: Stronger economic ties, because there is great potential for developing further our economic ties. Partly in trade but also in investments. For instance, energy sector and modern technology.
Close relationship is very important.
Q: This is your first visit to South Korea. Is there anything you would like to tell the people of South Korea?
A: I would like to tell people of Republic of Korea that we feel very close to you. Even if you are at the opposite side of the world from Norway. The world has become smaller and smaller through new technology and through communication technology. We are more and more inter-linked. Even if most Norwegians have not been in
(South) Korea but I think they are all very much impressed by achievements of Republic of Korea: strong economic growth and strong increase in living stands. And also what you have achieved when it comes to heath: increased life expectancy and decreased child mortality. It is impressive to see what you have achieved through quite short period of time. You have developed from poor developing country after the war in 1950s into modern, well-developed, and strong county today. I think that is great inspiration to many other countries in the world, to see you have developed from poor country to modern, well-developed, strong industrialized county today.
Q: What is your assessment, evaluation, and prognosis of the eurozone crisis?
A: The situation is less critical now than what it was at last fall and at the beginning of winter. During that time, we were afraid of the collapse or at least several members of the European Union that should not have been able to pay the debts. Of course we saw big problems in Greece and Portugal but also saw increased interest rates on government bonds in big countries such as Italy and Spain. That has been reduced in recents weeks because there has been agreement on how to handle Greek debt. Additionally, we have seen reduction in the yields of the government bonds in Spain and Italy. That is partly because the European Central Bank has conducted wise monetary policy, buying bonds and landing out money.
But mental problem is still there because we see very low economic growth in many European countries. We see high unemployment and actually we have seen increase in unemployment rate. Many European countries have still high public debts. So, mental problem is not solved even if the danger for the collapse has been very much reduced.
Q: There are concerns that austerity measures will not rescue countries from the economic crisis but make it worse. What is your opinion?
A: We need to increase economic growth. Without the economic growth, many European countries will not be able to pay the debts.
And there is danger that even if they are introducing austerity measures, reduction of the GDP or the recession will lead to the reach of debt will increase. Not because debts are increasing but the GDP is decreasing. So, austerity measure is not the only answer. The most important answer is to stimulate growth that can be carried out by expansionary monetary policy. And we have seen that (policy) being conducted by the European Central Bank. Much more important thing is structural reforms in European economies -- promoting economic growth, competition, and modernization of their public sector.
Q: Germany is moving to unify Europe to fight the eurozone debt crisis, saying it is a key step in solving the eurozone debt crisis. What is your opinion?
A: Challenge we have seen is that monetary union which was established when they created the Euro. It means that they have common monetary policy within Euro members. They did not have common fiscal policy. One way or another, there has to be relationship between monetary an fiscal policies. I think fiscal compact they have agreed on is an expression of the need for more coordination and cohesion when it comes to fiscal policy between countries with common monetary policy.
Q: What lesson did you learn from tragedy of the Breivik incident?
A: First of all, we have learned that we have to develop society that is characterized by tolerance and by acceptance of people regardless of their ethnic background, political view, and religious background. Norway, after the tragedy, has become more tolerant society. We have fully understood that it's not the question of different ethnic groups who are responsible for crimes or terrorist attacks. But it will always be individuals who are responsible and countable for the acts of crime. (Yonhap News)