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Bush Promises US Won't 'Abandon' Japan on North Korea Abductions

Leaders of the Group of Eight nations meet in Japan Monday to discuss how to tackle climate change, soaring fuel prices and the global food crisis. Sunday, U.S. President George Bush said the United States will not sacrifice Japan's concerns about abducted citizens in order to achieve progress on North Korea's nuclear weapons. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from northern Japan, where Mr. Bush held a summit with the Japanese prime minister prior to the start of this week's meeting of leaders from advanced economies.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda says he reminded President Bush Sunday that recent progress on ending North Korea's nuclear programs leaves plenty of work ahead.

Mr. Fukuda says it is extremely important that North Korea's recent nuclear declaration be verified, and the future progress on the nuclear issue go hand in hand with progress on the issue of abducted Japanese citizens.

North Korea has admitted abducting at least 13 Japanese national in the 1970s and 80s. Japan believes there were more abductions, and is holding back aid from the North until it feels Pyongyang has been more forthcoming on the issue.

President Bush thanked Mr. Fukuda for his gift of a book by the mother of Megumi Yokota, a young girl who has become a symbol of the abduction issue here in Japan.

"As the father of little girls, I can't imagine what it would be like to have my daughter just disappear. Mr. Prime Minister, as I told you on the phone when I've talked to you in the past, the United States will not abandon you on this issue," said Mr. Bush.

North Korea's declaration mentions nothing about how many nuclear weapons Pyongyang possesses or where they are. It also does not mention suspected uranium enrichment and nuclear assistance to other countries like Syria. Mr. Bush said he is concerned about the missing elements, and that pressure will remain on Pyongyang.

"North Korea is the most sanctioned nation in the world, and will remain the most sanctioned nation in the world. And the way for them to get off their sanctions is to honor their commitments in a verifiable fashion," he added.

Prime Minister Fukuda is hosting President Bush and the leaders of 19 other countries at the so-called "G-8" gathering of advanced industrial nations here on Japan's Hokkaido island. Mr. Fukuda is expected to push for a firm commitment toward reducing greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Mr. Bush says any set of climate goals without the world's two fastest emerging economies on board is in trouble.

"I'll be constructive. I've always advocated that there needs to be a common understanding, and that starts with a goal," he said. "And I'm also realistic enough to tell you that if China and India don't share that same aspiration, then we're not going to solve the problem."

Soaring food and energy prices, as well as cooperative aid efforts for sub-saharan Africa, are also expected to dominate this week's G-8 summit.