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Japan, China, South Korea Reaffirm Need for End of North Korean Nuclear Weapons Program - 2002-11-04

The leaders of Japan, South Korea and China have reaffirmed the importance of convincing North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program. They met on the sidelines of a summit of Southeast Asian nations in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

Junichiro Koizumi, Zhu Rhongji and Kim Suk-soo, the prime ministers of Japan, China and South Korea, agreed Monday that North Korea should dismantle its nuclear program. They conferred for an hour on the fringe of the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, gathering in Cambodia.

Japanese officials who attended the meeting said the three leaders confirmed that Pyongyang should make good on its pledge under the 1994 Agreed Framework pact with the United States to suspend nuclear weapons development.

Jiro Okuyama is a spokesman for the Japanese prime minister. He told VOA that all three countries are concerned over accusations by the U.S. government that Pyongyang continues to develop nuclear weapons. "The three countries agreed on the need for North Korea to abolish their nuclear development program, which is currently underway in violation of the agreed framework between the U.S. and North Korea," he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi pressed his Chinese and South Korean counterparts to seek a solution to the issue.

Pyongyang last month admitted it has a program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly during his visit to North Korea.

Mr. Koizumi is quoted as saying it would benefit Pyongyang to become a responsible member of the international community. South Korea has also pushed North Korea to end its nuclear program. China, an ally of Pyongyang, has stopped short of that but has reaffirmed its support of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

Last week, North Korea rejected a call to stop the program in talks with Japan. Pyongyang insists that it will only discuss the issue with the United States. But a White House spokesman said Sunday that North Korea must abandon the nuclear program before the United States will consider talks.

North Korean state-run media lashed out at Washington Monday. The official Korean Central News Agency accuses the Bush administration of trying to recruit other countries to pressure it and says the United States ultimately aims to invade North Korea.

It also reiterates a call for the two nations to discuss a bilateral non-aggression treaty.