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Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi expressed support Sunday for a proposal by the United States to give North Korea written assurance that the U.S. will not invade the country, ministry officials said.

The proposal would be part of an effort to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program.

“It is important to seek a way toward a peaceful resolution (to the North Korea issue) among Japan, South Korea and the U.S.,” Kawaguchi was quoted as saying during a meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly.

In Washington on Friday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the U.S. could possibly provide a written security guarantee to North Korea if it dismantles its nuclear weapons program. The guarantee would be a step short of a formal nonaggression pact.

It would be part of a new deal replacing an agreement Washington signed with North Korea in Geneva in 1994. That agreement was intended to cap North Korea’s capability to extract weapons-grade plutonium from its nuclear reactors.

During Sunday’s talks, Kelly explained Armitage’s remarks to Kawaguchi.

After the meeting, Kelly told reporters that the Armitage remark “summarized many of the American views” including statements made by U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell last week.

Kelly said that Sunday’s talks were part of ongoing discussions between Tokyo and Washington. He added that while the talks did not really touch on anything new, they did “spell out how we work to resolve this issue of North Korea and its return to its international obligations.”

He said cooperation among Japan, the U.S. and South Korea is vital to resolving the issue peacefully.

Kawaguchi urged Kelly to consider a multilateral framework to tackle the issue. She referred to a proposal to hold discussions among seven nations — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus South Korea and Japan.

The two sides agreed that it is important to closely analyze North Korea’s intention for developing a nuclear program. They will consider whether the program’s purpose is to supply energy, as Pyongyang has so far maintained, to develop nuclear weapons or merely to act as a bluff.

Kelly visited South Korea, China, Singapore and Indonesia to discuss North Korea before coming to Japan. He said he had briefed Kawaguchi on those visits.

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