The subject of North Korea was prominent in talks in Tokyo between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top Japanese government officials. Clinton is on her first overseas trip in her new job and her first stop in Asia is America's long-time key ally in the region. Clinton is seeking to reassure Japan the new administration in Washington will back its policies towards Pyongyang.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she discussed "at great length" North Korea weapon's programs and the stalled six-way talks aimed at getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions.
The timing of the talks is critical. The North Koreans are believed to be preparing another test of their longest-range missile and Pyongyang has hinted as much.
Addressing a joint news conference with her Japanese counterpart, Clinton made reference to the possible missile test. She also gave Japan moral support on what is an emotional issue here - resolving the fate of Japanese citizens who were kidnapped and taken to North Korea.
"The possible missile launch that North Korea is talking about would be very unhelpful in moving our relationship forward," Clinton said. "I know the abductee issue is of great concern here in Japan and I will be meeting with families later today to express my personal sympathy and our concern about what happened to those who were abducted."
Clinton says, if the North Koreans give up their nuclear weapons program and abide by previous agreements, the United States is willing to sign a peace treaty and normalize relations.
During the Bush administration, Japan expressed disappointment the United States removed North Korea from a terrorism blacklist without much progress in resolving the abductee issue.
Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone is expressing appreciation about the Obama White House's pledge to pressure Pyongyang on the fate of the missing Japanese.
Nakasone promises Tokyo will lift sanctions it imposed on North Korea, if Pyongyang re-opens its investigation into the fate of the Japanese abductees.
While in Tokyo, Clinton signed an agreement on relocating thousands of American troops from Okinawa to the American island, Guam, in the Pacific.
The Tokyo meetings also resulted in an announcement that Prime Minister Taro Aso will head to Washington next week, making him the first foreign leader to be greeted at the White House by President Barack Obama.
Mr. Aso's popularity is in the single digits, according a new opinion survey. He suffered another political blow this week. His finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, resigned in the wake of criticism he appeared drunk a few days ago at a news conference after a G8 meeting in Rome.