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European, Asian Foreign Ministers: North Korea Must Talk; Burma Must Democratize


Asian and European foreign ministers are calling on Burma to democratize and North Korea to return to disarmament talks immediately. North Korea's nuclear programs dominated the two-day meeting in Kyoto, Japan after North Korea test-fired a missile and reportedly looks like it may be preparing to conduct its first nuclear test.

Foreign Ministers from 38 Asian and European nations wrapped up meetings Saturday in Kyoto, Japan, calling on Burma and North Korea to live up to promises.

The European Union is pressing Burma's military rulers to implement long-awaited democratic reforms.

Europe and the United States, both with heavy sanctions in place against Burma, have threatened to boycott meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations if Burma assumes the rotating chairmanship next year.

Asian nations, which advocate engagement rather than sanctions, have been consulting on how to deal with the situation.

Still the meetings in Kyoto did play host Friday to the first ministerial-level talks between Burma's military and the European Union.

EU external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, told VOA this is positive in itself.

"The fact, per se, that this meeting took place and we could put our message across, was already, I think, a step forward," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

But it was North Korea's nuclear weapons program that dominated the talks amid a North Korean missile test this week and reports it is preparing for its first nuclear test.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon spoke at the end of the meetings.

"So the situation seems to be troubling and serious at this time," said Ban Ki-moon. "Many ministers have expressed their views that the room for negotiation still remains."

The ministers strongly urged North Korea to make a strategic decision to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and to return to negotiations without delay.

Japan's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima says Japan is joining South Korea, the United States and the United Nations in warning against a nuclear test.

"We would like to tell North Korea that the best way for them … to settle this is not to escalate this kind of threat and security environment, but to settle it with peaceful means, through dialogue," said Hatsuhisa Takashima.

North Korea has boycotted talks with China, South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States since June.

Japan and the United States say they will consider referring North Korea to the U.N. Security Council for action unless talks resume.

North Korea is insisting on massive aid and specific security guarantees, before it will consider honoring its agreements to be nuclear free.

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