LOS CABOS, Mexico – The leaders of Japan, South Korea and the United States agreed Saturday to launch a concerted effort to force North Korea to promptly scrap its nuclear-weapons program.
They also pledged to resolve the issue peacefully.
In a joint statement issued after their meeting in this Mexican seaside resort, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and U.S. President George W. Bush called for North Korea to dismantle the weapons program “in a prompt and verifiable manner.”
Koizumi said in the statement that Japan would not conclude normalization talks with Pyongyang without first resolving security issues — including those related to the nuclear program — and the problems surrounding the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The trilateral meeting came amid growing international concern over security in the Korean Peninsula. North Korea admitted earlier this month that it has a secret nuclear-weapons program.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
The leaders agreed to try to resolve the nuclear weapon issue “peacefully” and in close consultation with each other and with other nations. Their aim is to achieve “a peaceful Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.”
Bush, meanwhile, said the United States has “no intention of invading North Korea,” according to the statement.
He told reporters earlier in the day, “Our goal is to work with our friends in the region to convince (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Il to disarm.
“The strategy is to make sure that our close friends and people with whom we’ve got relations work in concert to convince Mr. Kim Jong Il that a nuclear weapons-free peninsula is in his interest.”
The three leaders urged North Korea to come into “full compliance” with the international commitments it agreed to at the Sept. 17 summit meeting in Pyongyang between Koizumi and the North Korean leader.
Pyongyang officials told a U.S. envoy earlier this month that North Korea has a secret program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. They added that the country is no longer bound by a 1994 bilateral accord aimed at ending the North’s suspected development of plutonium-based nuclear weapons.
The 1994 pact requires Pyongyang to freeze and dismantle its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors in exchange for two light-water nuclear reactors — which have yet to be built, Pyongyang complains — and the supply of heavy oil for heating and electricity production.
Light-water nuclear reactors are said to be more difficult to use in the development of nuclear weapons.
North Korea’s new nuclear-weapons program is a violation of a series of international nuclear-related agreements, including the 1994 accord, Koizumi, Bush and Kim said in the statement.
During Koizumi’s landmark visit to Pyongyang, the two leaders agreed to restart talks to establish diplomatic ties. The two countries will hold normalization talks in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The joint statement said the restart of normalization talks between Japan and North Korea and the North-South dialogue can serve as “important channels to call upon the North to respond quickly and convincingly to the international communities’ demands for a de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula.”
The South Korean president called at the summit for Washington and Pyongyang to maintain the 1994 accord. He said a new crisis involving North Korea’s plutonium-based nuclear weapons should not be invoked, according to a Japanese official.
Kim expressed concern that if the 1994 accord is scrapped, North Korea may start reprocessing used nuclear fuel in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, according to a U.S. official.
Bush showed understanding about Kim’s concern but avoided responding directly to the 1994 accord issue.
Before flying to Mexico, Bush met Chinese President Jiang Zemin at his ranch in Texas on Friday, where the two leaders pledged to seek a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula.