North Korea will discuss its nuclear weapons program only with the United States, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

Pyongyang indicated its stance during unofficial talks with Japan over the weekend in Dalian, China, the sources said.

Hitoshi Tanaka, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told a high-ranking North Korean official that Pyongyang must immediately give up its nuclear arms program, which uses highly enriched uranium.

North Korea replied that it considers the U.S. as its sole negotiation partner for nuclear issues and that Pyongyang will only discuss the matter with Tokyo “if necessary,” according to the sources.

The North Korean attitude reflects its dissatisfaction with Tokyo’s decision to keep in Japan the five freed Japanese who were abducted by North Korean agents 24 years ago and not have them return to Pyongyang in line with an earlier agreement, analysts said.

Tokyo is now urging Pyongyang to send the family members of the five freed abductees to Japan as a precondition for resuming the normalization talks. Pyongyang has not complied.

Given these circumstances, analysts said it is unlikely that normalization talks between the two countries will resume before the end of the year.

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