Japan, U.S. press North to start denuclearization steps

by Reiji Yoshida

U.S. and Japanese negotiators urged North Korea on Friday to quickly carry out agreed-upon initial steps toward denuclearization while playing down the urgency of a proposal from Pyongyang to create a separate forum for military talks with the United States.

“We have a very busy six-party agenda. That’s what we were trying to get accomplished today,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters after meeting his Japanese counterpart, Kenichiro Sasae, at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

“North Korea may propose various things, but what we should concentrate our attention on for now is to make certain of the initial steps,” Sasae said.

Earlier in the day, the North Korean military announced its proposal to hold a U.S.-North Korea military dialogue to discuss “peace and security issues” on the Korean Peninsula, together with a representative from the United Nations.

But Hill and Sasae urged the North to take initial steps to abandon its nuclear arms quest, including shutting down its Yongbyon reactor complex “as quickly as possible.” Hill also said he hopes the North disables the reactor and completes the shutdown of its nuclear program by year’s end.

Sasae and Hill met in Tokyo to confirm Japan-U.S. cooperation ahead of the next round of the six-nation talks on denuclearizing the North, set to resume Wednesday in Beijing.

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