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Japan: North Korea Understands it Must Dismantle Nukes - 2004-06-08

Japan's prime minister is expected to tell the leaders of the G-8 summit in the United States, that North Korea wants to dismantle its nuclear weapons program - despite public rhetoric.

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi left Tokyo Tuesday morning for the Group of Eight Summit on Sea Island, off the coast of the U.S. state of Georgia.

Before departing, Mr. Koizumi told a small group of foreign reporters that during his visit to Pyongyang last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il spoke of his desire to give up the country's nuclear programs.

The Japanese leader is quoted as saying Mr. Kim understands the Korean Peninsula will have to be nuclear-free and that will require international inspectors returning to the communist state.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hatsuhisa Takashima, says Mr. Koizumi will elaborate on his talks with Mr. Kim at the summit of leading industrial nations. "He wishes to convey those words to the other leaders, especially Mr. Bush, and to try to reaffirm the solidarity among the G-8 countries so that the North Korean nuclear issue would be resolved peacefully and diplomatically, especially through the six-party talks," he says.

Mr. Koizumi also told reporters he believes the impoverished North wants dialogue with the United States and suggested the Bush Administration should consider that possibility.

Japan is one of the nations engaged in the six-party talks to press North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs - which are in violation of several international agreements.

A third round of talks involving the United States, China, the two Koreas, Japan and Russia is expected later this month. The Japanese prime minister and President Bush are also expected to discuss the fate of an alleged U.S. Army deserter, Charles Jenkins, who has refused to leave North Korea to join his wife in Japan. Mr. Jenkins told Mr. Koizumi in Pyongyang last month that he fears being handed over to U.S. military authorities for court martial if he enters Japan.

The Japanese prime minister, after last month's 90-minute meeting with Mr. Kim on May 22, returned home with five children who had been left behind by two Japanese couples who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s. They had been allowed to finally leave North Korea in 2002 - but without their children.

In return for the release of the five children, Japan promised Pyongyang millions of dollars in food and medical aid.

Mr. Koizumi has faced criticism at home for the apparent exchange of aid for family members and not getting Mr. Jenkins and his two daughters out of North Korea.

Hardliners in Japan's parliament are pushing for sanctions against the communist state until all Japanese believed to have been kidnapped by North Korean agents are accounted for by Pyongyang.