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US, Japan, S. Korea Discuss Joint Stance Against N. Korea


The United States, Japanese and South Korean diplomats are working towards a joint strategy for confronting North Korea when multi-state talks on the North's nuclear weapons programs resume.

American and South Korean diplomats, in separate discussions Monday with top Japanese officials, pledged solidarity and a tough stance towards North Korea when the six-nation talks resume.

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Robert Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, met here Monday with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso.

Following the meeting, Aso told reporters that Tokyo will not be lifting sanctions imposed following Pyongyang's October 9th nuclear weapons test, and does not accept North Korea's nuclear power status.

Aso says that when the talks resume, Japan will not recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, despite its underground test last month.

Aso also says he is proposing that five of the six parties to the talks - Japan, the United States, South Korea, China and Russia - meet to discuss North Korea on the sidelines of next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Hanoi.

Undersecretary Joseph told reporters that the U.S. and Japan agree that North Korea has to totally abandon its nuclear programs, as demanded by the United Nations Security Council resolution that followed Pyongyang's nuclear test. Until then, he says, there will be no easing of sanctions.

"We are in agreement that the resolution must be fully and effectively implemented until North Korea meets all of the demands of the Security Council," said Joseph.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo Monday to discuss the North Korean situation.

A major obstacle to the six-party talks has been financial sanctions that the U.S. unilaterally imposed on North Korea last year, aimed at curbing alleged counterfeiting and money-laundering by the North. Pyongyang has demanded that Washington lift those sanctions if it wants cooperation from Pyongyang on the nuclear issue.

Ban, speaking to reporters here, rebuffed that demand.

Ban says the financial sanctions are a matter of law enforcement, not a political matter, and North Korea has to understand this.

North Korea 14 months ago agreed in principle to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits from the other five nations. But it has since boycotted the talks to protest the U.S. sanctions.

Following worldwide condemnation of their nuclear test, the North Koreans agreed during a meeting with Chinese and U.S. diplomats to return to the talks. A new round of talks is expected before the end of the year.