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Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura on Wednesday urged North Korea to return to the six-party talks aimed at ending Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, after the hermit state declared it is expelling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

On U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s remarks that hinted at direct talks with North Korea to achieve a breakthrough, Kawamura said that while he is not aware of the U.S. intentions, the “basis” should be the six-party talks framework.

“The most sensible way for North Korea . . . is to humbly listen to international opinion and return to the six-party talks process,” Kawamura told a regular press conference, referring to the stalled multinational negotiations seeking the denuclearize the North that involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, the United States and Russia.

He also noted the need for Japan to cooperate with the U.S. and South Korea in dealing with the matter.

North Korea on Tuesday ordered U.S. nuclear experts who were disabling nuclear facilities in Yongbyon and IAEA staff monitoring the work to leave the country, according to a U.S. government official in Washington.

The order was issued a day after the U.N. Security Council adopted a presidential statement condemning the North’s rocket launch on April 5. In response, Pyongyang vowed to further reinforce its nuclear deterrence and declared it was withdrawing from the six-party talks.

Kawamura also urged the North to accept the presidential statement and take concrete actions in line with it.

In Washington, Clinton also criticized Pyongyang’s latest move, but added that the U.S. is hopeful of eventually achieving a breakthrough through direct talks with the North Koreans.

New sanctions eyed

STAFF REPORT

Japan and the United States must collaborate to respond to North Korea’s provocative acts and jointly impose stricter sanctions against Pyongyang, former U.S. and Japanese government officials said at a conference in Tokyo Wednesday.

Speaking at an event organized by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale urged Tokyo and Washington to remain undeterred by the North’s April 5 rocket launch and “intensify consultation” to handle the issue.

The push by Japan and the U.S. for a strong response to the rocket launch was appropriate, even though the resulting U.N. Security Council presidential statement has led to Pyongyang announcing it is pulling out of the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the reclusive state, Mondale said.

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