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Powell Begins Asian Tour to Build Support for N. Korea Nuclear Resolution - 2003-02-22

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Japan Saturday, the start of a four-day trip to Asia to build support for a U.N. Security Council Resolution condemning North Korea's nuclear weapons program. He will also attend the inauguration of South Korea's new president.

This is U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's first trip to East Asia since the stand-off over North Korea's nuclear ambitions flared up four months ago.

He is here primarily to win backing from Japan, China and South Korea for a firm U.N. resolution condemning the North's moves toward nuclear weapons development. The issue is set to be debated by the U.N. Security Council in the near future, and a resolution could lead to actions that include economic sanctions.

The three Asian nations, all of which Mr. Powell will visit over the next several days, are urging Washington and Pyongyang to hold direct talks, but the Bush Administration prefers to sit down with the North in a multilateral setting, an idea the North rejects. Despite the tensions, Mr. Powell is expected to announce fresh food aid for the impoverished communist state.

Smoothing out relations with South Korea will also be a priority for Mr. Powell. He will attend the inauguration Tuesday of South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, and is expected to invite him to the United States to meet with President Bush.