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Senior US Official in Japan to Discuss Iraq, North Korea

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the United States is prepared to be patient on Iraq. Mr. Armitage is in Japan on the first stop of trip to sound out several countries on possible military action against Baghdad.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on Monday urged Japan to be prepared if the United States goes to war against Iraq. However, he also says that President Bush is willing to be patient with Baghdad.

United Nations weapons experts are now searching in Iraq for signs the country is still developing weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has just sent a declaration on its weapons programs to the United Nations Security Council.

The United States thinks Iraq maintains weapons programs banned under the terms of its 1991 surrender in the Gulf War. Washington has threatened military action if Iraq does not give up the programs.

"I think I have made it clear that President Bush has patience. He much prefers to have Iraq disarm herself but as our president has said, if Iraq will not disarm, Iraq will be disarmed. I made it clear that is how we are going to approach the question of [Iraq's] declaration," Mr. Armitage said.

He met Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and other senior officials.

He told journalists they did not discuss specific scenarios for a possible war on Iraq, and instead focused on more general security issues. Among them are concerns about North Korea's program to develop nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang has rejected Tokyo's attempts to include the issue in negotiations to set up diplomatic ties between the two nations. North Korea says it will discuss the matter only with Washington.

Mr. Armitage said the Bush administration supports a policy of many countries and international groups pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

"On [North] Korea, we made the point that we have patience and time for diplomacy to work. Particularly as Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, the IAEA, the EU and everyone shares a similar view as do we on the need for the de-nuclearized peninsula of Korea. So we are going to give time for diplomacy to work," Mr. Armitage explained.

It is unclear whether Tokyo will back military action against Baghdad. However, last week it agreed to dispatch one of its most advanced surveillance warships to the Indian Ocean to provide non-combat support to the war on terrorism. Mr. Armitage praised the move.

He travels to South Korea on Tuesday and will visit China and Australia later in the week.