Japan reiterated its support Monday for a U.S. plan to strike a new deal with Pyongyang that would replace a 1994 U.S.-North Korea agreement for the North to scrap its nuclear development program.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said, “Japan will seek a peaceful settlement, as we have done so far.”

Koizumi spoke to reporters at his official residence, commenting on a plan U.S. Assistance Secretary of State James Kelly broached to Japanese officials Sunday.

The prime minister also said Japan’s stance of urging North Korea to ease concerns about its nuclear program peacefully remains unchanged.

Koizumi said Japan will cooperate closely on the issue with the international community, including the United States, South Korea and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as China and Russia.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, the top government spokesman, told a news conference that Japan will fully support the U.S. plan to settle the North Korean issue through the possible new agreement.

Australian support

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer agreed in a telephone conversation Monday that Japan and Australia will continue working together in a bid to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff.

Downer briefed Kawaguchi on exchanges between Australian and North Korean officials last week in Pyongyang, Japanese officials said.

An Australian delegation headed by Murray McLean, first assistant secretary at the North Asia Division in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, visited Pyongyang from last Tuesday through Saturday.

Downer told Kawaguchi that the Australian officials emphasized at meetings in Pyongyang that the international community is concerned about North Korea’s nuclear development program and that North Korea should take steps to resolve the issue, according to the officials.

Kawaguchi briefed Downer on her recent exchanges with South Korean leaders on the North Korean issue during her visit to South Korea last week, as well as on her meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly in Tokyo on Sunday, the officials said.

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