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Japan Warns N. Korea on Nuclear Weapons Program - 2002-10-24


Japan is warning North Korea that relations between the two countries can only be normalized if it addresses international security concerns over its covert nuclear weapons program. Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi delivered the warning at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in Mexico. He said Japan will tell North Korea that its nuclear ambitions are a matter of grave international concern and normalization of relations will depend on how this is addressed.

The two countries are scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday to discuss establishing diplomatic relations.

The two sides agreed to pursue normalization talks after Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi held a summit in Pyongyang in September. Mr. Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il signed a declaration committing their nations to observe all international agreements for a comprehensive solution to the nuclear question.

But that was before the United States said it confronted North Korea in October with evidence that it was violating a 1994 arms control agreement in which North Korea pledged to halt development of its nuclear capability. Japan's Vice Foreign Minister Motegi says North Korea has violated the spirit of the Japan-North Korean summit last month.

The issue will take center stage when APEC leaders gather in Mexico starting Saturday. The United States has called for North Korea to immediately dismantle its illegal weapons program and will consult with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung on coordinating a response.

A leading Japanese newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, reported Thursday that the three nations will issue a joint statement calling on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons development program. The newspaper says the joint statement will also express the intention of Washington, Tokyo and Seoul to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis through diplomatic efforts.

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