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Preparations for N. Korea  Nuclear Talks Continue - 2003-08-09


Chinese, Japanese and South Korean officials are shuttling around the region ahead of multination talks on North Korea's nuclear program. A senior Chinese official says the talks in Beijing will be held later this month.

Yasuo Fukuda, Japan's chief Cabinet minister, had separate meetings in Beijing Saturday with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Wu Bangguo, chairman of the National People's Congress.

The ostensible purpose of his visit is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of a peace treaty between Japan and China. Mr. Fukuda's father, the late Takeo Fukuda, was prime minister when the treaty was signed on August 12, 1978.

However, diplomats say Saturday's talks dealt primarily with planned six-nation talks about North Korea's nuclear weapons development program. Japan is also seeking Chinese support over the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

Mr. Fukuda, who traveled to Beijing with two former prime ministers, is scheduled to meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Sunday.

Shortly before Mr. Fukuda's arrival, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi returned from three days of talks in Pyongyang. Mr. Wang said the North Koreans had agreed to talks during the latter part of August, and called his discussions with North Korean officials a success.

Mr. Wang's boss, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, is due to leave Sunday for visits to Japan and South Korea.

Meanwhile, South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Jae-sup has left for an official visit to Russia. He is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart, who has been Moscow's point man on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Beijing is credited for persuading Pyongyang to agree to the six-party talks, which will also include the United States, Japan, South Korea and Russia. Previously, Pyongyang had been insisting on bilateral talks with Washington.

The talks are aimed at convincing Pyongyang to dismantle its weapons program, which was first revealed last October.

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