Japan will not accept Pyongyang’s demand for a light-water nuclear reactor because it would be used to produced atomic weapons, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Thursday.

“It has always been Japan’s position not to approve even the peaceful use (of nuclear technology) for countries that are not credible,” Hosoda told a regular news conference in Tokyo, referring to North Korea’s demand, which has become a fresh obstacle at the six-party talks in Beijing.

Construction “of a light-water reactor is equivalent to approving the enrichment of uranium (in North Korea) and would lead to the manufacturing of uranium atomic weapons.

“We cannot accept discussions that appear to say that it is all right (for North Korea) not to have strict inspections as long as (a reactor) is for civilian use.”

North Korea has insisted it has a right to civilian nuclear program and to build a light-water nuclear reactor under a new framework separate from a now-defunct 1994 deal with the United States, in exchange for giving up its nuclear arms program.

At the six-way talks, which resumed Tuesday after a five-week break, Japan stood with the United States in opposing Pyongyang’s request, while China, South Korea and Russia appeared to support it.

On Tuesday, President George W. Bush endorsed Iran’s right to civilian nuclear energy.

More bilateral talks

BEIJING (Kyodo) The chief Japanese and North Korean delegates to the six-nation nuclear talks met bilaterally Thursday in Beijing for the second straight day, Japanese officials said.

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