Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda voiced displeasure Friday over a suggestion by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that money and goods sent by Japan, South Korea and China are helping to sustain North Korea’s dictatorship.

Asked to comment on Rumsfeld’s remarks, made during a meeting with Pentagon employees Thursday in Washington, Fukuda said Japan has not been dispatching money and goods to Pyongyang in a proactive manner.

“I would not say it’s zero, but it’s not that we have been actively doing it,” Fukuda said.

He was apparently alluding to cash and goods that are sent by pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan when they travel to North Korea on a ship that calls between Japanese and North Korean ports.

“There is a humanitarian side, and speaking of humanitarian assistance, the United States is doing it too,” Fukuda said.

Washington has recently pledged to provide food aid to North Korea, while Japan has provided no aid of any sort since 2000.

“I would hope that he speaks after looking at the whole picture and at who he is speaking of,” Fukuda said.

Prior to next week’s talks in Beijing on the North’s nuclear program — involving the United States, North Korea and China — Rumsfeld also said the U.S. has no plans to reward Pyongyang even if it completely abandons its nuclear weapons program.

Fukuda appeared to be irritated by this remark. “Usually, you don’t talk about conditions before talks even begin,” he said.

Although Japan ostensibly welcomes the trilateral talks as a first step toward dialogue, it fears being left out of the loop.

“Of course, we wanted to take part in the talks from the first stage,” a senior government official said. “But we decided to be patient and let the talks begin among the three countries to move things in any way possible.”

Fukuda reiterated Friday that Japan must be included in a multilateral framework after the Beijing talks.

“Japan and South Korea must be included,” he said. “The talks will not move forward if Japan does not participate.”

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