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Diplomats Actively Preparing for Talks on N. Korea Nuclear Issue - 2003-08-10

An energetic round of diplomatic activity continues in preparation for six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Diplomats from China, Japan and Russia are on the road for planning meetings.

The pace of diplomacy ahead of talks on North Korea's nuclear program is picking up. Top-level Chinese and Japanese officials were in each other's capitals Sunday, and a ranking Russian diplomat arrived in Beijing with word of further preparatory talks later in the week.

The six-party talks will include North Korea, the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia. They are expected to be held in Beijing in late August.

In Beijing Sunday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi held an informal meeting with Japan's Chief Cabinet Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, to discuss Mr. Wang's recent three-day visit to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

North Korea was also on the agenda Saturday, when Mr. Fukuda met with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

In addition to the nuclear issue, Tokyo wants to raise the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea during the 1970s. According to a senior Japanese official, Mr. Fukuda received assurances from the Chinese president that China would support Japan's intention to push for the return of family members of the abducted citizens.

While Mr. Fukuda was in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing arrived in Tokyo for talks with Japanese officials, including his Japanese counterpart and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Mr. Li is due to move on to Seoul later in the week for three days of meetings with South Korean officials.

And Russia's deputy foreign minister, Alexander Losyukov, was also in Beijing Sunday to discuss the North Korea talks. According to the Russian Itar-Tass news agency, Mr. Losyukov said Russia, North Korea and South Korea would hold talks in Moscow later this week.

The six-way talks will be aimed at convincing Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons development, which was revealed last October.

China hosted an initial meeting between North Korea and the United States in April, but those talks were inconclusive.