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N. Korea Not Budging Under Japanese Demands to Halt Nuclear Weapons Program - 2002-10-30

North Korea has rejected Japan's demands that it give up its nuclear weapons program. The rejection came at the end of two days of talks that focused on ways to normalize relations. Pyongyang also says that five Japanese it kidnapped decades ago must end their visits home and come back to North Korea.

Japanese and North Korean negotiators meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia made no progress on the key issues dividing them.

Japan's biggest concerns are North Korea's nuclear weapons program and the abductions of Japanese nationals by the North. For Pyongyang, the chief issue is its demand that Tokyo pay compensation for Japanese colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century.

During the two-day talks, the first in two years, Japan repeatedly insisted that North Korea halt its nuclear weapons effort.

The United States, South Korea and Japan are pressuring Pyongyang to abandon the program, which Washington revealed earlier this month. But the North rejected Japan's request. It blames Washington for the problem and says it can only be resolved through talks with the United States.

Earlier Wednesday in Tokyo, Japanese government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda underscored the importance of resolving the nuclear issue. He said it concerns the safety of the nation and is a topic that needs to be discussed in depth.

The North Korean negotiators also rejected Tokyo's push for talks on at least 13 Japanese citizens kidnapped by the North decades ago. The five known surviving abductees are now visiting Japan, and North Korea has said it views the issue as largely resolved.

However, Tokyo wants the abductees to stay longer in Japan and for their children to be allowed to join them. Japan also wants to know more about the abductees that Pyongyang says are now dead.

Pak Ryong Yeon, a North Korean spokesman, said Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur that Tokyo must return the abductees to North Korea. He also blamed Japan's focus on the abduction and nuclear issues for the lack of progress in the talks. He said that Pyongyang wants to normalize ties first and then negotiate on these and other issues.

Japanese officials say that Tokyo will not offer Pyongyang financial aid unless formal diplomatic relations are established. It suspended aid to the North last year.

Japan says the North Koreans proposed another round of talks next month, but no agreement was reached on holding them.

The talks follow an unprecedented summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Pyongyang last month.