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Ambassador says Britain has strong interest in peninsula security

Britain has been a "strong supporter" of South Korea grappling with North Korea's nuclear threats, the top British envoy in Seoul said Friday, underscoring that his country has a "very strong interest" in the stability of the Korean Peninsula.

During a lecture on the bilateral relationship in Seoul, Ambassador Charles Hay said London has played a role in passing the latest package of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sanctions in response to the North's most recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch, and has engaged in the EU's efforts to apply its standalone sanctions on the unruly regime.

"We are not a member of the six-party talks, but we have a very strong interest in the security and stability here, and we do our part to support what is going on," he said, referring to the long-stalled multilateral aid-for-denuclearization talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.

"We have been a strong supporter of the (South) Korean government, and our foreign secretary was very loud and immediate in his condemnation of the recent provocations from North Korea," he added.

Britain's dispatch of troops to the Seoul-based U.N. Command tasked with observing the Armistice Agreement that halted the 1950-53 Korean War attests to his country's interest in the security of its long-standing friend, South Korea, he noted.

Britain's security support for the South dates back to the Korean War, the first major armed conflict of the Cold War. The faraway country sent more than 60,000 troops to fight under the banner of the United Nations following the North's invasion.

"More than a thousand of the (British soldiers) died (in the Korean War). And these days, we think much more about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but more British soldiers died in Korea than died in Afghanistan and Iraq put together," he said.

Touching on the bilateral relationship that has deepened and widened in various areas, such as culture, trade, investment, education and diplomacy, the ambassador described the evolving relationship as "very strong."

The challenge facing him as an ambassador is how to manage and further improve the hitherto successful partnership, he said.

"When (diplomats) go on a posting to a country either as an ambassador or any other jobs in the mission, you always have to worry about bilateral problems that you have with that country," he said.

"However, I have to say with Korea, there are no bilateral problems at all. The question is and the challenge for me as an ambassador is how do we take a good relationship and make it even better."

Commenting on the increasing influence of "hallyu," or the global spread of Korean pop culture, Hay said that knowledge about Korea has been growing in his country through Korean celebrities, such as singer Psy. He also expressed hopes to further cement bilateral "cultural links" through various events, such as "U.K. Culture in Korea," slated for next year. (Yonhap)
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