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US Envoy Says North Korea Open to Direct Talks with Japan


Steven Bosworth's 3-day mission to North Korea was the first high level meeting between Pyongyang and the Obama administration.

North Korea may be willing to begin direct talks with Japan. That's the message from senior U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth. Bosworth made the comments in Tokyo, where he briefed Japanese leaders on his recent trip to North Korea.

U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth went to North Korea to convince the reclusive country to reconvene six party talks aimted at dismantling its nuclear programs. Bosworth says Pyongyang gave no indication they would restart those discussions but top officials suggested they were open to direct talks with Japan.

"Here our discussions focused on the need for continued unity of purpose among the five and I found Japan very co-operative in that regard," Bosworth said.

Bosworth told reporters in Tokyo that he urged North Korea to engage Japan on the issue of abductees. The Japanese government maintains the communist country abducted dozens of its citizens during the Cold War. And they have made the abductee issue a key part of nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea.

Six-party negotiations which include North and South Korea, the U.S., Russia, China, and Japan have been stalled for nearly a year now. Pyongyang withdrew from the discussions and announced it would begin making weapons-grade plutonium. In May of this year, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test, drawing tough sanctions from the U.N.

But in October, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il said his country would consider restarting six-party talks after direct talks with the U.S.

Bosworth's 3-day mission to North Korea was the first high level meeting between Pyongyang and the Obama administration. The U.S. envoy said top North Korean officials expressed a willingness to begin four party talks with the U.S., China, and South Korea. And he said both the U.S. and North Korea reached a "common understanding" to discuss a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula.

"As you know, I found general areas of convergence between ourselves and the North Koreans. But at this point we don't know when we might reconvene the six party talk," Bosworth said.

North Korea echoed Bosworth's remarks, saying the meetings "deepened the mutual understanding and narrowed their differences."

After briefing Japanese officials, Bosworth left for Moscow to meet with Russian diplomats.

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