Japan, US seek talks on N.Korea in Hanoi

Updated: 2006-11-06 15:37

TOKYO - Japan and the United States want their foreign ministers to meet counterparts from China, South Korea and Russia next week to discuss North Korea's nuclear programs, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said on Monday.

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns (C) and Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph (R) speak with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso at the latter's office in Tokyo, November 6, 2006. [Reuters]

The proposed meeting would take place on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC) forum meeting in Hanoi, Aso told reporters after talks with UnderSecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and UnderSecretary of State for Arms Control Security Robert Joseph.

North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test on October 9, agreed last week to rejoin six-party talks on its nuclear programs after staying away for a year in protest at a US crackdown on its international finances. Those talks bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

"What is most important is that the five parties maintain close solidarity," Aso said.

Pyongyang's nuclear test drew worldwide condemnation and UN sanctions. China has supported the UN sanctions, which target trade in large conventional weapons, weapons of mass destruction and luxury goods.

Aso said the United States and Japan had agreed that North Korea should not be recognized as a nuclear power and the resumption of six-party talks should not spell an end to sanctions imposed following the October 9 nuclear test.

"Reopening the six-way talks is not the objective. The six-party talks are a means and the objective is for them to give up nuclear weapons," Aso said.

Burns, speaking separately, said Japan and the United States saw "eye to eye on the question of North Korea" and rejected a call by Pyongyang for Tokyo to stay away from the nuclear talks.

"These are six-party talks. The United States believes that one of our most important partners in this configuration is Japan," Burns told reporters. "Obviously, we all stick together and we are all partners in these negotiations."

North Korea said on Saturday that Japan should not bother to attend the six-party talks because Tokyo was refusing to recognize Pyongyang as a nuclear weapons state and because Japan was no more than a "state" of the United States.

Joseph said Tokyo and Washington had agreed that a UN Security Council resolution calling for sanctions on North Korea should continue to be implemented fully until Pyongyang met all of the resolution's demands, including the irreversible, verifiable and complete elimination of its nuclear program.

"We are of one mind that this resolution provides the way ahead," he said.

The US officials are expected to head for Seoul later on Monday, and from there to travel to Beijing and Moscow.

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