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    Rice Urges North Korea to Re-Enter Nuclear Disarmament Talks

    U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Tokyo as part of a six-nation Asian tour, has urged North Korea to return to the stalled six-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. In later remarks, Ms. Rice also gave a hint that there are limits to Washington's patience.

    In what U.S. officials billed as a major policy speech, and later in remarks to reporters, the secretary of state said Saturday it is time for North Korea to stop brandishing its nuclear capability, and resolve the issue in the multilateral arena.

    She called on all nations to use whatever leverage they can to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, where talks are aimed at convincing the North Koreans to dismantle their nuclear programs.

    In a speech at Sophia University early in the day, Ms. Rice reiterated that the United States has no intention of attacking North Korea. But her later remarks contained a hint of a threat, in the event that diplomacy fails.

    "We are committed to diplomacy, but I think it goes without saying that no one is going to be prepared to allow the North Koreans just to continue down a road that threatens everyone," she said.

    Pyongyang, which says it is building nuclear weapons as a deterrent, has said it would not consider new talks, until Ms. Rice apologizes for earlier calling North Korea "an outpost of tyranny." Earlier this week, the North's official news agency called Ms. Rice "bereft of any political logic."

    The U.S. secretary of state has already visited India, Pakistan and Afghanistan on this trip. After Japan, she is due to spend time in South Korea and China.

    She says she will appeal to Chinese officials to use their influence with Pyongyang to help restart the stalled negotiations, but she is playing down expectations that there will be a breakthrough on this trip.

    During a wide ranging meeting with her Japanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, on Saturday, the U.S. secretary of state called on Japan to quickly resume U.S. beef imports. She said the matter is "very, very important" to the U.S. government.

    The beef trade has been halted for 15 months, since one dairy cow in Washington State, exported from Canada, was found to have "mad cow" disease.

    Mr. Machimura, standing beside Ms. Rice, told reporters that Japan's Food Safety Commission, not politicians, has to decide on the timing.

    The Japanese foreign minister says it is not possible at this point to state a timeline or a deadline for the resumption of the beef trade.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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