• Kyodo

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Japan and the United States ended two days of high-level talks in Washington on Friday, agreeing to keep a close eye on North Korea’s reaction following last week’s six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear arms programs, a Japanese official said.

During the talks, Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage traded views on the message North Korea will issue on the 55th anniversary of its foundation on Tuesday, the official told reporters.

Japan and the U.S. are expected to closely watch whether North Korea will take provocative measures, such as declaring itself a nuclear power, testing nuclear weapons or test-launching missiles.

At the six-party talks, Pyongyang threatened to declare that it possesses nuclear arms and test them unless the U.S. abandons what Pyongyang calls a hostile policy toward it. Japan, China, South Korea and Russia were the other participants in the Beijing meeting.

The Japanese official said Takeuchi and Armitage agreed on the need to continue the process of six-party talks to peacefully resolve the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Takeuchi thanked the U.S. for supporting Japan’s position in Beijing on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea, the official said.

Takeuchi told Armitage that Japan plans to provide Iraq with as much reconstruction help as possible, including dispatching a unit of the Self-Defense Forces.

Japan, however, is considering the timing of the deployment and assessing the security situation in Iraq, Takeuchi was quoted as saying.

Armitage did not call for a prompt SDF dispatch.

At the meeting, the fourth of its kind, Takeuchi welcomed U.S. efforts to adopt a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would pave the way for the international community to provide a wide range of cooperation on Iraq’s reconstruction.

The U.S. is seeking the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize a multinational force in Iraq, expand the U.N.’s role in reconstruction efforts and open the way for the country’s transition to a constitutional democracy.

The next high-level meeting will be held in Japan early next year, the official said.

The Japan-U.S. meeting was followed by trilateral talks also involving Australia, with Ashton Calvert, secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, joining Takeuchi and Armitage.

The three countries agreed to promote the U.S.-led initiative to block sales of weapons of mass destruction and related materials by North Korea and other countries.

Japan, the U.S., Australia and France will send ships to the Coral Sea and begin naval interdiction exercises on Wednesday as part of the Proliferation Security Initiative established by U.S. President George W. Bush in May.