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US, Japan Discuss Coordination of North Korea Policy - 2003-01-19

U.S. envoy to Asia, James Kelly, has met with Japan's foreign minister to coordinate policy on North Korea. The meeting is part of a broader international effort to defuse tensions over the communist nation's nuclear programs.

Japanese officials say U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi agreed Sunday to continue working closely to resolve the North Korean nuclear stand-off, along with South Korea, China and Russia.

Their meeting takes place on the final day of Mr. Kelly's five nation Asian tour, aimed at forging a common approach toward North Korea and its nuclear ambitions.

At Sunday's meeting, Ms. Kawaguchi told the U.S. envoy that Japan will support U.S. initiatives on the North. Mr. Kelly told reporters that he had gone into great detail over how the United States and its allies can work to bring North Korea back into compliance with international non-proliferation agreements.

The crisis began in October, when U.S. officials said the North admitted it had a secret nuclear weapons program, something Pyongyang later denied. Tensions increased when the United States and its allies cut fuel aid shipments to the North.

In the last month, Pyongyang escalated the dispute when it expelled United Nations inspectors as it moved to restart a frozen nuclear complex, withdrew from the global nuclear arms treaty and threatened to restart ballistic missile tests.

From South Korea, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard called the nuclear standoff a challenge to the entire international system and reiterated the Bush Administration's stance that it is willing to consider aid for the impoverished Stalinist state if it abandons its nuclear programs.

South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun says he is relieved the United States is committed to finding a peaceful solution to the problem. He said he had concerns that hawks in Washington had been considering the possibility of a military option until this month.

From Washington, the White House stressed it has no intention of invading North Korea and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says the United States may put that in writing. But he ruled out a formal non-aggression treaty, demanded by North Korea before direct talks on resolving the dispute can start.

Russia, one of North Korea's allies, is also engaged in the search for a solution. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov flew to Pyongyang from Beijing Saturday after talks with Chinese officials. He says his main goal is to promote dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. Russia is pushing a proposal in which the North would receive aid in exchange for keeping the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.