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Japan, US reject N. Korea talks stance
( 2003-10-08 11:49) (CNN.com)

Japan and the United States have been quick to reject North Korean demands that Japan take no part in further talks to resolve the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

A statement from the North Korean Foreign Ministry, carried on the official KCNA news agency Tuesday, said Japan had been dumped from future negotiations because it persisted in linking other issues with the nuclear talks.

"Japan is nothing but an obstacle to the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue between the DPRK (North Korea) and the U.S.," the statement said.

"It has lost its qualification to be a trustworthy dialogue partner."

But Tokyo has rejected the ban, saying it is important for Japan to attend multi-lateral talks.

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly responded, saying: "N. Korea is not in the position to say who should participate the next round of six-way talks," Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

"It is only natural for Japan to join in multilateral debate such as the six-way talks as the N. Korean nuclear issue is connected directly with Japan's security issue."

The U.S. State Department also rejected North Korea's demand.

"Japan clearly must and will continue to be a participant to the six-party talks in order to achieve a diplomatic solution," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Since Japan is a neighbor of North and South Korea, Tokyo "has vital interests at stake in the nuclear issue and in other areas as well," Boucher said.

Pyongyang's actions "have raised the concern of its neighbors, including Japan, and North Korea must deal with those concerns in these discussions," he added.

Japan joined the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and China in Beijing in August for talks aimed at easing tensions that have been escalating since October 2002, when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted it had a covert weapons program.

Tokyo used the talks to bring up a separate issue -- the abductions of Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 1980s by North Korean spies.

"The Japanese authorities' much publicized 'issue of abduction' was already settled with the adoption of the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration," the statement on KCNA said.

"There is neither ground nor base for them to link it to the nuclear issue. Their row only renders the nuclear issue more complicated."

'Hostile policy'

No second round of multi-party talks has been scheduled and North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon appeared to reject the idea in an address to the United Nations General Assembly last week.

"The result of the six-party talks has convinced us once again that the United States is seeking to disarm the DPRK by means of pressure, still pursuing the hostile policy of stifling the DPRK," Choe said.

"Since it has proven that the United States is only interested in turning the six-party talks into a ground for completely disarming and killing the DPRK by all means instead of co-existing peacefully with the DPRK, we have been driven not to maintain any interest in or expectation on such talks."

North Korea has repeatedly blamed its need for a nuclear weapons program on what it calls the United States' "hostile policy" towards Pyongyang.

The reclusive state claimed last week it had reprocessed 8,000 fuel rods from its Yongbyon nuclear reactor -- fuel that could be used in nuclear weapons -- to boost its deterrents in response to U.S. threats.

But U.S. officials doubt the claim, saying there was no evidence to confirm the move.

Washington, which has called North Korea part of an "axis of an evil" along with Iran and Iraq, has been pressing for Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

However, North Korea says it will not give up its weapons program until it has a guarantee the U.S. will not attack.

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