• Kyodo

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Political leaders from Japan, South Korea and China agreed Monday to urge North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons development program in order to secure a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, according to Japanese officials.

The accord was reached during an hourlong meeting here between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Suk Soo and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji.

The three leaders had gathered to discuss the issue on the sidelines of a series of meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The trilateral agreement follows last month’s call by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum for Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program and push for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The new agreement states that Pyongyang must honor a promise to suspend its nuclear development program, specified in a 1994 bilateral pact with the United States, the officials said.

During the talks, Koizumi vowed to press Pyongyang on the issue during diplomatic normalization talks between Japan and North Korea.

“We want the nuclear program to be dismantled in a verifiable manner,” Koizumi was quoted as saying. “We hope China and South Korea will play a constructive role toward that end.”

While Kim hailed the international community’s efforts to help stabilize the Korean Peninsula, Zhu said the nuclear issue should be settled peacefully in accordance with the 1994 accord between Pyongyang and Washington.

The 1994 accord compels North Korea to freeze and scrap its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors in exchange for two light-water nuclear reactors and a supply of fuel oil for heating and electricity production.

Light-water nuclear reactors are said to be more difficult to use in the development of nuclear weapons.

During talks with a U.S. envoy in Pyongyang in early October, North Korean officials reportedly admitted that the country has a secret program to enrich uranium for arms purposes and said that Pyongyang is no longer bound by the 1994 accord.

South Korea has asked the U.S. to maintain the fuel oil supply specified in the 1994 accord.

Koizumi briefed Kim and Zhu on his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

He was quoted as saying that the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents is a priority issue for Japan, along with Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

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