Japan wants international talks on an energy project for North Korea because the U.S. has set no money aside for it for fiscal 2004 due to the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday.

“We must talk with relevant countries” about the management of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, Koizumi said.

Any decision “should be made through talks with relevant countries,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda.

According to a budget plan released Monday for fiscal 2004, which begins Oct. 1, the U.S. State Department has earmarked no funds for KEDO.

Koizumi said the abolition of U.S. payments would also affect negotiations between Japan and North Korea.

“We need to urge (the North) to follow international law in a faithful manner” to ease concern about its nuclear programs, Koizumi said.

KEDO is funded chiefly by the U.S., Japan, South Korea and the European Union.

Under the so-called Agreed Framework that the U.S. and North Korea signed in 1994, KEDO was to build two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea that are reportedly difficult to use to produce nuclear weapons. In the interim, the U.S. was to supply Pyongyang with fuel oil.

In return, North Korea was to freeze and eventually dismantle its graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities that were suspected of being used to develop nuclear weapons.

In October, the U.S. said it had confronted Pyongyang with evidence that North Korea was continuing a secret program to enrich uranium that could be used for nuclear weapons. Pyongyang admitted the program was ongoing. In December, the U.S. stopped supplying fuel oil to the North.

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