While noting the difficulties still lying ahead, U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said Tuesday in Tokyo that he expects multilateral talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program to resume as early as next month.
Hill was in Tokyo to report on recent steps to restart talks with Pyongyang, such as unfreezing the funds, which were finally transferred to North Korean accounts at a Russian bank.
U.S., China and Macau authorities had earlier agreed to the release of the money, but the process hit a snag when no international bank proved willing to accept the tainted North Korean funds.
However, Hill noted that the successful transfer of the funds was just the latest step on a long road.
“(North Korea) also has considerable obligations, including the obligation to disable the nuclear facility. So there’s a lot of work there,” Hill said, urging Pyongyang to take key steps toward denuclearization.
Sasae said he and Hill also agreed to continue cooperating to resolve issues related to the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents, a top priority for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Hill said the abduction issue is very important “not only to the Japanese people, but also to the U.S. government and U.S. people.”
Disarm first, talk later
Resuming the six-party talks on North Korea in July will depend on what steps Pyongyang takes to disarm, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Tuesday.
“We will have to see to what extent it will faithfully implement the initial steps,” Aso told reporters when asked about the prospect of restarting the talks next month.
Aso said a move by the International Atomic Energy Agency to send officials to North Korea next week has “raised the chances” of carrying on with the denuclearization steps.
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