Zuma’s G20 trip may be clouded by N Korea reports

An influential group in South African President Jacob Zuma’s ruling party has been stepping up its support for North Korea, Pyongyang’s media said, ahead of his visit to the G20 meeting in South Korea’s capital.

In the past few months, the African National Congress Youth League sent a delegation to a conference in Pyongyang and was quoted by the North’s official media as calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-il the “great guardian” of peace.

Zuma will be seeking investment from South Korea and support for a call to limit the harm to emerging-market currencies, such as the rand and South Korean won, that have soared in value as investors faced with minimal interest rates in crisis-hit developed economies seek higher returns elsewhere.

South Korea has tried to ensure a smooth G20 this week and will not want to spoil its hosting of a major diplomatic event by pressing Zuma on the actions of a faction in his party. But Seoul is also apprehensive of any support given to the North’s leaders.

A spokesperson for the ANC Youth League confirmed it sent the delegation to the World Festival of Youth and Students in June but denied the contents of the reports on the KCNA news agency.

“We support North Korea, unapologetically,” ANC Youth League spokesperson Floyd Shivambu told Reuters. “We have never said anything except declaring support for North Korea.”

A report on KCNA news agency in August said: “The secretary of the ANC Youth League of South Africa praised Kim Jong-il as the great guardian who firmly guarantees peace and security of not only the Korean Peninsula but the world with his Sonngun [military-first] politics.”

Shivambu denied the youth league made the comments. ANC officials responsible for international affairs declined to comment on the KCNA reports.

Nuclear pursuit
South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said cosying up to the North could undermine trust in the ruling party and called on the ANC to enforce discipline.

“The ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, should take action against his youth league if it turns out that they have indeed provided vocal support for the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il,” said the party’s youth chair Mbali Ntuli.

Shivambu also denied North Korea was pursuing nuclear weapons, despite repeated statements by the North’s government officials and its state-sanctioned media that it was building nuclear arms deterrent to counter what it sees as hostile US intents.

“Who says that North Korea is pursuing nuclear weapons? It is not true. It is sensationalism of the American media. They are pursuing nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons,” Shivambu said.

The UN Security Council has condemned and sanctioned North Korea for its two nuclear tests and a separate long-range rocket launch for undermining security in North Asia, a region responsible for one-sixth of the global economy.

South Africa, like many of the countries at the G20, has diplomatic ties with North Korea and has joined many of those states in criticising Pyongyang for its nuclear tests. — Reuters

Jon Herskovitz
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