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Sino-Japanese minister-level dialogue planned
Updated: 2005-02-27 09:20

Senior Japanese and Chinese diplomats reaffirmed the need Saturday to soon hold minister-level dialogue, and agreed to work to set a date for a visit to China by Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.

Cui Tiankai, head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Asian Affairs Department and Kenichiro Sasae, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, reached the agreement in a meeting Saturday night.

The talks were held after Sasae flew to Beijing in the evening from Seoul, where he met with senior South Korean and American diplomats to coordinate policy on the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

Sasae, Japan's chief delegate to the talks, told reporters he did not discuss the North Korean issue with Cui, but said he will brief China on the results of the Seoul talks in a meeting Sunday with Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei.

In the talks in Seoul, Japan, South Korea and the United States agreed to urge North Korea to return to the stalled six-way talks unconditionally and without delay.

The three countries agreed to cooperate with each other to that end.

The talks in Seoul were attended by Sasae, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min Soon and U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill. Song and Hill are their respective countries' chief delegates to the six-party talks.

The gathering in Seoul was intended to coordinate policy after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a Chinese envoy earlier this week Pyongyang might return to the six-country talks if certain conditions are met.

Wang Jiarui, head of the China's International Liaison Department, met with Kim after North Korea declared Feb. 10 that it possesses nuclear weapons and that it was boycotting the six-nation talks indefinitely.

The crisis over North Korea's nuclear arms program erupted in 2002, when the United States accused Pyongyang of operating a secret uranium enrichment program.

The six countries -- China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States -- have held three rounds of talks since August 2003 to defuse the crisis.

A fourth round set for the end of last September failed to materialize as North Korea refused to attend it, blaming the United States for taking what it called a "hostile" attitude toward the country.

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