Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States would help pay for the removal and destruction of North Korea's nuclear facilities as part of a deal for an "irreversible" end to Pyongyang's weapons program. Mr. Powell says there has been progress in six-party talks on the issue.

The costs associated with an end to the North Korean nuclear program would be considerable. And Mr. Powell is making it clear that, in the context of a disarmament deal, the United States and other parties to the Chinese-sponsored, six-party talks would be prepared to help underwrite the task.

In an interview with reporters from Japan and the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia, the text of which was released Friday, Mr. Powell pointed to the example of Libya, which has received U.S. disarmament help since it renounced weapons-of-mass-destruction late last year.

But Mr. Powell cautioned that aid to North Korea could only come in the context of a disarmament deal that is "totally irreversible" and includes Pyongyang's plutonium-based weapons efforts, as well as the enriched uranium program the United States insists North Korea has, but North Korea refuses to acknowledge.

The Secretary, who reiterated U.S. peaceful intentions toward North Korea, said he thinks there has been progress in the six-party talks, which are expected to resume late next month. However, he said he could not predict if an agreement can be wrapped up within a year.

On other issues in the wide-ranging interview, Mr. Powell said Japan must consider revising pacifist elements of its post-WWII constitution, if it wants to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

He also said he hoped that, as Japan examines its business relations with Iran, it would consider that Tehran "is not behaving in a responsible manner" with the international community in regard to its nuclear program, which the United States says has a secret weapons component.

Mr. Powell expressed disappointment that the Burmese government's "road map" for political reform, issued a year ago, has not led to pluralistic democracy.

He said as long as Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her party are denied the opportunity to take part in the country's political life, the United States will continue to speak out strongly and look for new "levers" by which to pressure the regime.

Mr. Powell also said under questioning that Muslim Uighurs from China, detained at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, would not be sent back to China on their release.

But he said finding places of refuge for the Uighurs, believed to number about a dozen, "is not a simple matter" and that the United States is considering several candidate countries.