North to soon be off U.S. blacklist: China envoy

by Reiji Yoshida

The United States will probably soon remove North Korea from its list of states sponsoring terrorism, visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Friday.

Yang made the remark during a meeting with Social Democratic Party President Mizuho Fukushima, according to an SDP official who attended the meeting.

China chairs the six-nation talks on denuclearizing North Korea and wields some influence over Pyongyang.

Tokyo has strongly urged Washington not to delist North Korea until the hermit state convincingly resolves the issue over its past abductions of Japanese nationals, as this remains a highly emotive matter for Japan.

Yang also told Fukushima he hopes other countries will move forward “in the same direction” as the U.S.

Later the same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said he had not heard anything about the North’s delisting from the Chinese side, adding the U.S. has promised to consult with Japan over such a move.

“There is no (consultation) from the U.S. now,” he told a regular news conference.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said that when he met with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer later in the day, the two did not discuss the issue in question.

Instead, Fukuda said, the ambassador briefed him on recent progress over negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington on the North’s nuclear weapons program.

Yang paid courtesy calls Friday on different party leaders and also met Machimura and Fukuda. Machimura said he explained to Yang the strong reaction by the Japanese public to the recent food-poisoning cases caused by imported “gyoza” dumplings from China, urging Chinese leaders to give more consideration to the impact of the incident on relations.