North Korea's neighbors have renewed calls for a resumption of aid-for-disarmament talks, even as international experts monitoring the deal departed.
Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers met Thursday for the first time since Pyongyang announced its withdrawal from the six-nation talks. South Korea's Yu Myung-hwan and Japan's Hirofumi Nakasone said they will work closely with the United States to resume the talks at an early date.
The foreign ministers also told reporters in Tokyo that they agreed on China's key role in restarting the talks.
Speaking in Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Thursday urged all sides to exercise calm and restraint in order to safeguard the denuclearization talks.
United Nations and U.S. nuclear experts who have been monitoring the disablement of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility under the deal have ceased their activities at Pyongyang's request.
North Korea ordered them out of the country earlier this week when it announced plans to restart production of weapons-grade plutonium.
The U.N. team arrived in Beijing early Thursday on a flight from Pyongyang. The four-person International Atomic Energy Agency team removed seals and disabled surveillance cameras at the Yongbyon facility before leaving. Four American experts who were also monitoring the Yongbyon plant are also preparing to depart.
North Korea said it was ending its participation in the six-party talks in response to a U.N. Security Council statement condemning Pyongyang's launch of a long-range rocket.
This week's U.N. statement calls for the designation of new entities and goods that could be added to sanctions under a Council resolution (1718) that barred North Korea from conducting missile tests in 2006.
On Wednesday, a United Nations Security Council committee held its first informal consultations to discuss expanding sanctions against North Korea for violating a ban on ballistic missile tests. The committee, which monitors U.N. sanctions against North Korea, is to report by April 24 on companies or technology that should be added to the current sanctions list.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.