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Tokyo talks seen seeking way to reassure N.Korea
( 2003-09-29 13:44) (Agencies)

U.S., Japanese and South Korean diplomats were set on Monday to begin strategy talks on North Korea's nuclear arms program, with the issue of how to reassure Pyongyang over its security concerns seen high on the agenda.

The talks in Tokyo will be the first among senior diplomats from the United States and its two key Asian allies since a round of six-way negotiations in Beijing in August.

Those discussions ended with agreement that tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear program should be resolved peacefully, but no schedule was set for another round of talks.

"A date has not been set yet. We want to urge (North Korea) to agree (to the next round)," Japan's top government spokesman, Yasuo Fukuda, told a news conference.

"Six-way talks will eventually be held. We want to exchange views on how to deal with that," Fukuda added.

Washington wants North Korea to agree to a verifiable and irreversible end to its nuclear programs, including production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.

Pyongyang, for its part, wants firm assurances that the United States will not attack or invade it.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, Mitoji Yabunaka, director general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck will take part in the talks, the bulk of which are expected to take place on Tuesday following a private dinner on Monday, Japanese government sources said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan said last week that Washington was working out a detailed plan to deal with the North Korean nuclear crisis including ways to ease North Korea's security concerns and ease its economic hardship.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that addressing those security concerns was vital.

"Russia believes ensuring the nuclear non-proliferation regime should be accompanied by North Korea receiving guarantees in the sphere of security," he told a news conference with President Bush after talks at Camp David, Maryland.

Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun said on Monday that Japan would press the United States at this week's talks to state specific terms under which it would provide security guarantees.

The three countries are also likely to discuss creating an international inspection system to verify that North Korea is dismantling its nuclear arms program once it says it is willing to do so, Kyodo news agency said.

The six-way talks in Beijing brought together North and South Korea, Russia, the United States, Japan and host country China.

U.S. government officials have said another such round on the crisis, which emerged a year ago when Washington said Pyongyang had admitted pursuing a secret nuclear arms program, was unlikely before November.

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