Disarmament, not armaments: Vatican on North Korea

As a representative of the South Korean Church prepares to leave on a "providential" mission to the North, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, says the Holy See is in favour "not of armaments, but of disarmament and peace".

Responding to a question from a journalist about North Korea's recent nuclear testing, Cardinal Bertone says the "Holy See will continue to work for what advances peace".

"The Holy See will by all means encourage an approach aimed at facing and solving the problem, not at increasing it," he said at the opening ceremony of the Salesian Pontifical University new academic year.

His words were echoed by a statement released yesterday by the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace which expressed its "full support" for a proposal to set up a working group within the United Nations that would prepare a treaty to limit conventional weapons trade.

In the communiqu�, the Holy See "urges the international community to assume its responsibility in establishing an obligatory legal framework aimed at regulating the trade of conventional weapons of any type, as well as of know-how and technology for their production".

The statement, signed by Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, the Council's secretary, joins those of others who are taking part in the discussions over a resolution entitled Effective International Control over the Import, Export and Transfer of Conventional Arms scheduled for a UN General Assembly committee currently underway in New York.

Meanwhile, South Korean bishops gathered for their general assembly have changed their agenda following the North Korean test.

AsiaNews reports that the bishops were set to gather all those involved in the sector of humanitarian aid for North Korea, to evaluate the impact of the crisis on projects of the local Church and Caritas for the people there, who have been worn down by the disastrous agricultural policies of the regime of Kim Jong-il.

AsiaNews sources in Seoul also say that the Korean Caritas director-general, Fr Paul Jeremiah Hwang, will leave today for a visit to North Korea.

His visit - described as "providential" - has been planned for some time. It was not cancelled or put off, a sign of Pyongyang's desperate need of international humanitarian aid, especially in view of sanctions about to be imposed by the UN.

According to initial leaks, conspicuous among the "punishments" lined up by the UN for the nuclear provocation, is the embargo on ships going to and coming from North Korean coasts. This, together with the blockade of Chinese merchandise, isolates North Korea from all possible food sources.

By land, Pyongyang can only reach Chinese and South Korean borders. After the launch of mid and long-range missiles on 6 July last, Seoul announced and implemented a blockade of humanitarian aid.

After yesterday's statements by Beijing - which described the nuclear test as a "brazen step despite the concerns of the international community" - Kim Jong-il will find himself alone while 23 million North Koreans risk dying of hunger.

Seoul: South Korean bishops meet to discuss aid for North after atomic test (Asia News, 10/10/06)
Holy See never in favour of weapons, says Cardinal Bertone
NORTH Korea: Bertone, Vatican will encourage dialogue (AGI, 10/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Holy See, Secretariat of State
Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea

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11 Oct 2006