• Kyodo

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Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on Wednesday asked the United States to take up the alleged abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents when its officials meet their counterparts from Pyongyang later this month, Japanese officials said.

Kawaguchi made the request to Secretary of State Colin Powell at a meeting Wednesday morning ahead of the gathering here of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight major industrialized powers.

Kawaguchi was quoted as telling Powell, “We would like the United States to take up the issue of abductions of Japanese.” Powell nodded, the officials said.

Powell told reporters on a flight to Canada that Washington is planning to hold talks with Pyongyang later this month but did not indicate where they would take place.

Kawaguchi also touched on the U.S. military presence in Okinawa, expressing hope that Tokyo and Washington will soon iron out their differences over a local Okinawan request for a 15-year limit on the U.S. military’s use of an airport to be built off Nago. The facility would absorb the heliport functions of Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, which will be returned once a new facility is built.

The U.S. government has repeatedly rejected the time limit, saying it is impossible to assume that threats to regional security in the area will not exist in 15 years.

Kawaguchi also requested “improved implementation” of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement on management of U.S. military forces in Japan, which does not require the U.S. to hand over U.S. military personnel suspected of crimes to Japanese authorities until they are formally charged.

Powell was quoted as telling Kawaguchi that he would do his best in handling issues related to Okinawa, including SOFA implementation.

Kyoto signings sought

WHISTLER, British Columbia (Kyodo) Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi has asked Russia and Canada to ratify as early as possible the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming, Japanese officials said Wednesday.

Kawaguchi made the request in separate meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Canadian Foreign Minister William Graham before the Group of Eight countries began their two-day meeting of foreign ministers in this ski resort in western Canada.

On June 4, Japan ratified the Kyoto Protocol and submitted its ratification documents to the United Nations.

Kawaguchi told Ivanov that Russia’s ratification is essential to activating the pact. The Russian minister replied by saying his government wants to work toward early ratification, the Japanese officials said.

Graham, meanwhile, said that ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is becoming a difficult domestic issue in Canada, due partly to resistance from industry, they said.

The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialized countries to cut their emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by an average of 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2012.

The protocol will enter into force 90 days after it is ratified by at least 55 states who represent 55 percent of the industrialized countries’ greenhouse gas emissions in 1990.

With the United States having ditched the pact, its entry into force now depends on Russia to tip the balance.

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