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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rice again warns North

Pyongyang must give up nukes for talks to work

Staff writer

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that upcoming six-party talks to end North Korea's nuclear threat will fail unless Pyongyang indicates it is willing to abandon its nuclear weapons.

In a meeting earlier with Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, Rice was reluctant to endorse a quick decision on expanding the U.N. Security Council, despite heavy campaigning by Japan and three other countries seeking permanent seats on the powerful body.

The so-called Group of Four -- Japan, Brazil, Germany and India -- submitted a resolution to the U.N. General Assembly last week that calls for expanding the current 15 UNSC membership to 25. They plan to put the resolution to a vote sometime around July 20.

Machimura and Rice also agreed to accelerate discussions on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan and have a report completed by September, Japanese government officials said later. Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono said earlier Tuesday the report will likely include which bases will be involved and a rough outline of what will take place.

On North Korea, Rice and Machimura reaffirmed the importance of the U.S., Japan and South Korea staying in close contact on the North's nuclear agenda, since the next round of six-party talks is expected to be held later this month. The talks have been on hold for more than a year.

Later Tuesday, Jiji Press quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying on condition of anonymity the six-way talks will likely be held in Beijing starting July 27 and continue for two or three days.

Senior officials of the three nations will huddle in Seoul Thursday over the talks, which will include both Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia, the Foreign Ministry said.

"What we really need is a strategic decision on the part of the North that they are indeed ready to give up their nuclear weapons," Rice told reporters after meeting with Machimura. "Because without that, the talks cannot be successful."

Rice added that U.S. officials are ready to "roll up our sleeves" and do everything they can to make the talks a success.

But the focus on nuclear disarmament will force Japan into a dilemma regarding its own agenda with North Korea -- whether to bring up the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents.

Japan finds itself torn between the public's demand that it address the abduction issue during the six-way talks and pressure from the other five nations not to bring up the subject.

"The topic at the six-party talks should be about North Korea's complete abandonment of nuclear" arms, Machimura said. "At the same time, it is important to bear fruit on the missile and humanitarian issues, including the abductions."

Although Rice said she supports Japan's desire to resolve the abduction issue, she did not touch on whether it should be taken up during the six-way talks.

Rice also expressed no objections to a South Korean donation of 500,000 tons of rice to North Korea, saying the gesture will not undercut the U.S. negotiating position.

On U.N. reform, Rice carefully avoided touching on the Group of Four's resolution, stressing many times the need for "broader U.N. reform," such as U.N. organization and secretariat reform, rather than only UNSC reform.

"We support U.N. extension. But we do believe that there is much work to be done on broader U.N. reform as well," Rice told a joint press conference with Machimura after the meeting.

Rice also repeated Washington's support for Japan's candidacy for a permanent UNSC seat. Rice and Machimura agreed both sides would keep in touch on the issue.

The U.S. has announced a reform proposal that would add "two or so" permanent members and two or three rotating members to the body.

Despite the proposal, her remark reflects Washington's reluctance to add any new members to the Security Council. The U.S. believes that doing so will slow down the decision-making process of the most powerful international organization.

Though Japan has close ties with the U.S., Tokyo could not persuade Washington to support the resolution, or to at least keep a low profile on the issue.

Machimura said he and his Group of Four counterparts will meet in New York on Sunday for final consultations. The African Union and a group opposed to the Group of Four are reportedly planning to submit separate resolutions to the U.N. General Assembly sometime soon.

Rice also held similar discussions with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi later in the day before leaving Tokyo in the evening for Seoul.

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The Japan Times

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