U.S. official briefs Kawaguchi on agenda for North Korea

James Kelly, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on Wednesday that he plans to convey Washington’s concerns to North Korea about its missile program and other security issues during his upcoming visit to Pyongyang.

Kelly is set to visit the Stalinist state from Thursday to Saturday for the first dialogue between the United States and North Korea under the administration of President George W. Bush.

He arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday for consultations before flying on to Seoul and Pyongyang. He is expected to return to Tokyo Sunday to brief the Japanese side about the outcome of his visit.

In his meeting with Kawaguchi at the Foreign Ministry, Kelly said he will tell North Korea about the “grave concerns” of the U.S. administration, but that the U.S. plans to resolve problems through dialogue, according to a ministry official.

The U.S. demands on North Korea include a halt in its program to develop and export missiles, a reduction in its conventional forces along the border with South Korea and immediate inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency into its suspected nuclear arms program.

Kelly expressed strong support for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Sept. 17 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, and said his visit was made possible by Koizumi’s trip.

Kawaguchi said Japan welcomes the U.S. decision to send Kelly to Pyongyang, and hopes Washington will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with North Korea, according to the official.

On the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens, Kelly expressed condolences to relatives of the abductees declared dead by Pyongyang but did not comment on whether he would take up the issue in his upcoming talks.

Kelly also met with Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda later in the day. They confirmed the importance of close policy coordination involving Japan, the United States and South Korea.