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Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone met with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and his counterpart Yu Myung Hwan in Seoul on Wednesday. Mr. Nakasone and Mr. Yu devoted half their meeting to North Korea-related issues and agreed to push for the North’s denuclearization through the framework of the six-party talks, which involves the United States, China, Japan, the two Koreas and Russia.

Recently the North has been saber-rattling. The North Korean Army said Jan. 17 it would take an “all-out confrontational posture” against the South and wipe out President Lee’s government. The North also said Jan. 30 it will terminate all agreements with the South aimed at ending confrontation. It is now reported that the North appears to be preparing to test-launch a long-range ballistic missile. As U.S. State Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will visit Asia next week, said, North Korea’s behavior in the past few weeks is unacceptable to neighboring countries in East Asia.

On the other hand, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party official Jan. 24 that Pyongyang is dedicated to making efforts to denuclearize the North and seeks progress in the six-party talks in cooperation with China, the chair of the talks. By using hard and soft tactics, North Korea may want to deal directly with the U.S. and get it to recognize the North as a nuclear-weapons state. But this would be unacceptable to Japan and South Korea as well as to the U.S.

Mr. Nakasone in Seoul mentioned the need for a “comprehensive solution” to the nuclear and missile issues and the issue of the past abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea. It is outrageous that despite its promise last summer to reinvestigate the fate of abduction victims, Pyongyang has done nothing.

Ms. Clinton’s Asia visit should be used as a chance for the U.S., Japan and South Korea to strengthen cooperation in getting the stalled six-party talks moving again for the ultimate purpose of denuclearizing North Korea.

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