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Japan Baulks As US Talks Aid For North Korea

by Shigemi Sato
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 06, 2007
A US envoy said this week's talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons could discuss economic incentives for Pyongyang, but Japan ruled out funding a deal without progress in a dispute over kidnapped Japanese. US negotiator Christopher Hill, in Tokyo ahead of six-nation talks that resume Thursday in Beijing, renewed his demand that North Korea take concrete steps to implement a September 2005 agreement to give up atomic weapons.

North Korea made the pledge in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees, but tested its first atom bomb a little more than a year later.

"I think clearly we will have to move as soon as possible to implementation" of the agreement, Hill told reporters, calling for North Korea to take "a very strong, clear step" within weeks of the Beijing talks.

Hill has declined to confirm a Japanese press report that North Korea had demanded oil shipments in return for freezing its reactor. But he noted that the 2005 deal involved energy and economic assistance.

"I have not discussed any details of this at all in my bilateral consultations with the DPRK, although I think it is quite possible that it will come up in the six-party context this weekend," Hill said, referring to the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday that North Korea had told US officials it wanted 500,000 tons of oil a year in exchange for shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

But Japan, the region's largest economy, made clear it would not automatically foot the bill of a deal with North Korea.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso told Hill that "there is a limit to the measures that our country can take under the current circumstances as North Korea is not acting sincerely to solve pending issues between Japan and North Koerea including the abduction issue," a foreign ministry statement said.

North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had abducted 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies. It returned five of them to Japan along with their families and said the other eight had died.

But Japan believes they are still alive and suspects even more Japanese nationals were kidnapped and are being kept under wraps because they know too many secrets about the North's Stalinist regime.

The issue rouses deep anger in Japan, which has sometimes irked other nations by insisting on raising the matter during the six-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

Asked about Tokyo's reluctance to fund a deal with North Korea, Hill said he hoped "the US and Japan can work together."

"The six-party talks present a very broad platform on which we are trying to address a number of issues, not only issues related to bilateral concerns but also issued related to denuclearisation," he said.

Kenichiro Sasae, Japan's envoy to the talks, said Tokyo was committed to raising the abduction issue again.

"It is important to move ahead on the abduction issue as part of efforts to move the whole six-party process ahead. The United States fully understands this point," Sasae said after talks with Hill.

The discussions came as North Korea attacked the South and the United States for a fresh deployment of fighter bombers in the region and accused them of spying, state media reported.

The Korean Central News Agency said such actions "may aggravate the situation in the region, triggering off a new arms race and adversely affect the peaceful solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula."

The agency was quoting a spokesman for the Korean National Peace

Source: Agence France-Presse

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No Plans For Military Action On Iran Says Blair
London (AFP) Feb 06, 2007
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday there were no plans for military action against Iran, but there is growing alarm at Tehran's defiance of the international community. Blair reiterated that, if the Islamic republic were to cooperate with the West in terms of curbing its nuclear plans and other actions, "a whole series of doors would open up to them. Nobody is talking or planning military intervention," Blair told a parliamentary committee.

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