APEC summit takes up North Korea nuke issue, Abe seeks speedier efforts

by May Masangkay

Kyodo

Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum took up the North Korean nuclear issue on Sunday, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explaining his nation’s policy of working with other countries to speed up efforts to achieve the North’s denuclearization and to find a resolution of the abduction issue.

Abe told his APEC counterparts on the final day of the two-day summit that a resolution of the North Korean nuclear and missile issues is indispensable for regional peace and stability, Japanese officials said.

“With the six-party negotiations currently discussing the second denuclearization phase, Japan will cooperate with concerned countries to accelerate efforts toward North Korea’s denuclearization,” Abe was quoted as saying.

Speaking at a news conference wrapping up the 21-member APEC summit, host Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the leaders took up the issue of North Korea.

“We are grateful for the progress so far,” he said, adding that “there is still some ground to be traversed and we hope that North Korea keeps to her part of the bargain.”

The six-party talks are now in the process of detailing the implementation of the second phase of denuclearization in which North Korea will disable all of its existing nuclear facilities and declare all of its nuclear programs under the aid-for-denuclearization deal reached on Feb. 13.

The six nations are China, Japan, South and North Korea, Russia and the United States. They are all also members of the APEC forum.

Abe, whose administration’s priority is resolving the issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals, also stressed the importance of improving Japan-North Korea relations for the region’s peace and stability.

As Japan will do its part, it is hoped that North Korea will also sincerely address this issue, Abe was quoted as saying.

The abduction issue is currently being addressed through a working group set up under the six-party framework.