Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi condemned Iraq on Friday for failing for more than a decade to carry out its obligations under United Nations resolutions, and urged Baghdad to clear suspicions over its possession of weapons of mass destruction.

“Iraq needs to fulfill U.N. resolutions and completely wipe out the concerns among the international community,” Kawaguchi told the Diet. “(Iraq) is challenging the authority of the U.N.”

In her foreign policy speech, Kawaguchi vowed to continue pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program and retract its decision to pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Kawaguchi said she will closely work with the United States, South Korea and other nations and organizations, including China and Russia, to peacefully resolve the North Korean issue.

“I will do my utmost to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea after resolving issues of security and abduction,” she said, calling the issue one of the most pressing diplomatic items on Japan’s agenda.

Kawaguchi said the government will make further efforts to provide protection to Japanese nationals in foreign countries, and keep in close contact with Japanese embassies and consulates.

Her remark came in the wake of the return earlier this week of a Japanese woman who had been in China’s custody since her escape from North Korea.

Chinese authorities handed her over to Japanese officials Wednesday, paving the way for her first homecoming in 44 years.

Calling Japan-U.S. relations the basis of Japan’s diplomacy, Kawaguchi said Tokyo will continue to consult closely and cooperate with Washington on issues related to North Korea and Iraq.

She also stressed the importance of building a future-oriented relationship with South Korea under the new administration to be launched by President-elect Roh Moo Hyun later this month.

On relations with Russia, she vowed to implement a bilateral action plan inked by leaders of the two countries Jan. 10 that covers a broad range of issues from cultural exchanges to economic cooperation.

Kawaguchi said she is determined to resolve the territorial dispute with Russia concerning sovereignty of the disputed islands off Hokkaido “at the earliest date” so that the two nations can sign a peace treaty.

Diplomats face cuts

The Foreign Ministry is looking to cut various allowances given to diplomats assigned overseas as part of a reform drive, according to a draft plan presented Friday to the Liberal Democratic Party.

The plan features an average cut of 8.2 percent in allowances paid when diplomats are dispatched to embassies and consulates.

The document, submitted to a meeting involving LDP divisions tied to diplomatic affairs, also states that all diplomats should shoulder part of their overseas rent.

The LDP divisions approved the plan, which would entail legal revisions. A set of bills to revise related legislation is expected to be endorsed by the Cabinet on Feb. 7 before being submitted to the Diet.

The reduction in the overseas-assignment allowance, graded on the basis of position, will lead to combined savings of more than 1.3 billion yen per month, according to the document.

Monthly allowances for ambassadors will drop 12 percent, from 920,000 yen to 810,000 yen, while the monthly figure for first secretary-level positions will be cut by nearly 10 percent to 470,000 yen.

While diplomats were not required to pay rent for their homes as long as the amount stood within preset limits, those in first secretary-level positions will have to pay an average 24,000 yen per month under the new program.

The ministry will also cut allowances given to embassy ministers when they serve as acting ambassadors. In addition, it will do away with an allowance paid to ambassadors representing Japan in multiple countries whenever they make business trips between countries within their jurisdictions.

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