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US Official Says Lifting Sanctions on North Korea Will Take Time

John Negroponte, the deputy U.S. secretary of state, says North Korea will have to comply with its promise to shut down its nuclear reactor before the United States lifts financial sanctions it imposed. Catherine Makino reports for VOA from Tokyo.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte says North Korea must take the first steps toward abandoning its nuclear weapons program before the United States will lift sanctions or take the North off its list of nations sponsoring terrorism.

North Korea agreed at six-nation talks in Beijing last month to shut down its nuclear reactor and allow international inspections, in return for deliveries of fuel oil.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Negroponte said the broader issues - North Korea abandoning its nuclear programs completely, in return for economic aid and diplomatic concessions - are still to be ironed out.

"When it comes to such issues as lifting of sanctions or delisting North Korea from the sponsors of terrorism list, those are issues that we simply agreed to begin to discuss as part of this process that was launched by this initial actions agreement," he said.

He says there are many steps to be taken before the sanctions are actually lifted and the nuclear issue is addressed.

"The initial actions agreement, reached during the six-party talks in Beijing last month, is a good first step, but just the first step in a process that will lead to a more stable and secure Northeast Asia," he said.

Negroponte also said there might be another United Nations resolution sanctioning Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium. The United States, Europe and the United Nations fear Iran - like North Korea - is moving toward building nuclear weapons.

"One U.N. Security Council resolution, as you know, has already been passed several months ago, and the possibility now arises that there will be another such resolution in light of the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency last week filed a report with the Security Council saying that Iran continues to be out of compliance with its obligations," he said.

Negroponte is on his first official trip abroad since taking up his new position last month. He met earlier with Japanese officials including Foreign Minister Taro Aso, and is due to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Negroponte says he supports Japan's refusal to supply fuel oil to North Korea under last month's agreement until the issue of Japanese kidnapped by North Korea is resolved.

North Korea has admitted taking 13 Japanese in the 1970's and '80's. It allowed five to return in 2002, and says the other eight died. Japan says, at least 17 people were kidnapped, and all must be fully accounted for.

Japan and North Korea are due to meet in Hanoi next week to discuss normalizing relations, but Tokyo has said no progress can be made on diplomatic ties until the abduction issue is settled.

Negroponte leaves Saturday for China and South Korea.