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N. Korea Rejects Japanese Involvement in Future Nuclear Talks - 2003-10-07

North Korea has announced it will ban Japan from future talks on the communist state's nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea says Japan will have no role in future talks on Pyongyang's controversial nuclear weapons program.

A statement from the North Korean Foreign Ministry, carried by state-run media, accused Japan of linking bilateral issues to the nuclear talks and declared that it is no longer a trusted dialogue partner.

Pyongyang did not specify what issues, but the statement did criticize Japan's attitude toward the North. It says Japan is pressing North Korea on its abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s for spying purposes. It also blasted Tokyo for supporting the United States, which has taken the toughest position in negotiations to get Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Japanese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima says North Korea has no right to restrict Japan's role in resolving the dispute.

"We do not accept their statement because Japan is entitled to participate in every negotiation or talks on the nuclear issue," said Mr. Takashima.

Japan, the United States, China, Russia and the two Koreas held an inconclusive round of multi-party talks in Beijing in August. Further discussions on getting North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program are expected, but have yet to be scheduled.

Spokesman Takashima says the United States and its allies have already invited North Korea to a second round of talks.

"Actually, Japan and the rest of the parties are waiting for the North Korean reply for the date and the venue of the next round of six party talks," he said. "My understanding is that China is working very hard on it and China is talking with North Koreans."

North Korea has consistently pushed for one-on-one talks with the United States, but Washington says that the issue should be settled in a multilateral context.

The leaders of Japan, China and South Korea met Tuesday on the sidelines of a regional summit in Bali, Indonesia, and vowed to work together to end the escalating dispute. And they agreed that the Korean Peninsula must be free of nuclear weapons.

Last week, Pyongyang announced it had reprocessed 8,000 fuel rods from a nuclear facility. The North says it is using that fuel to make nuclear bombs to increase what it calls its "nuclear deterrent" against the United States.