APEC wants end to spread of WMDs

U.S. President George W. Bush has held talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the standoff over North Korea�s nuclear weapons program, RFA reports.

The two leaders met behind closed doors as Bush made his first stop on a six-country tour of the region, which will include the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum leaders� summit in Bangkok next week.

�The two leaders once again reiterated the need for a peaceful resolution,� one U.S. official told reporters in Tokyo. �Both agreed that the six-party process lays out a very helpful way to try and achieve this goal.�

Diplomats from the United States, Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, and North Korea met in Beijing in August for China-brokered talks on the crisis, which flared when Pyongyang admitted to continuing its nuclear program in October 2002.

�The five powers have all agreed that North Korea cannot reap the benefits of being engaged with the international community without abandoning its nuclear weapons program,� the U.S. official said.

The August talks ended with no clear result, other than a statement of intent to meet again.

Since then, Pyongyang has vowed to intensify its manufacture of nuclear weapons, and threatened to show the world the �physical force� of its nuclear deterrent.

Some analysts regard such posturing as a regular part of Pyongyang�s negotiating tactics, while others fear North Korea will intensify the crisis by carrying out a nuclear test.

The issue will be high on the agenda when APEC leaders discuss security worries during their meeting in Bangkok on Monday and Tuesday.

A draft of the communiqu� to be issued at the end of the summit calls on member countries to �eliminate the severe and growing danger posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery,� but without naming North Korea specifically.

Japanese officials have voiced frustration with such indirect criticism, preferring a strong and direct warning to Pyongyang.

North Korea has already demanded that Japan be excluded from any future discussions, apparently because Tokyo insisted on bringing up the issue of its citizens abducted by Pyongyang at the talks in August.

China, which favors a less confrontational approach to its one-time comrade-in-arms, nevertheless said it wanted Japan to participate in any future talks.

�We welcome Japan continuing to play a constructive role in resolving the Korean peninsula nuclear problem through peace and dialogue,� foreign minister Li Zhaoxing told reporters in Bangkok, where Chinese President Hu Jintao began a state visit Friday.

China has played a key role in persuading Pyongyang to accept the multilateral format so far, and its endorsement of Japan�s inclusion in the talks may convince Pyongyang to change its stance.

North Korea wants a bilateral nonaggression pact with the United States before it abandons its nuclear arms program, while the United States wants North Korea to move quickly to scrap the nuclear program first. #####


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