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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian, Japanese expectations high for upcoming N.Korea talks

RIA Novosti

28/06/2007 13:39

TOKYO, June 28 (RIA Novosti) - A senior Russian diplomat said Thursday on a visit to Tokyo that Russia and Japan expected substantial progress to be made in advance of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

"We believe there should be stable, serious and sensible steps forward," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said after meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Kenichiro Sasae.

"First and foremost, we expect such steps from Pyongyang before we next meet to jointly discuss what else should be done."

The U.S. envoy to the six-nation talks on North Korea's denuclearization, Christopher Hill, earlier proposed holding a new round of talks in July. He also proposed that the foreign ministers of the countries involved - Russia, Japan, the United States, North and South Korea, and China - meet in August on the sidelines of an Asian security forum.

Losyukov said: "We expect that we will be able to resume the process in the near future, possibly in July. As to the meeting of the foreign ministers, I think it could take place in August if progress is made, and if North Korea does what it is expected to do."

The Russian official said Moscow had nothing against Washington's proposal to hold a meeting between representatives of the United States, China, and North and South Korea without Russia and Japan.

"We are considering this from a common sense point of view," Losyukov said. "If there is a need to convene a meeting between these countries, which are historically involved in the problem, I don't think we should be jealous or have any objections, if this is aimed at attaining our common goals."

The Japanese diplomat thanked Russia for its assistance and support in settling the North Korean nuclear problem. "We consider it important that North Korea has taken specific measures, including negotiations with the IAEA," he said.

A major breakthrough was made in the negotiating process with Pyongyang after the reclusive Communist state received $25 million of its previously-frozen funds earlier in the week.

A Russian bank announced Monday that the money, frozen for nearly two years in a Macao bank account, had been transferred in full to the country, in a complex international transaction.

The transfer opened the gate to inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog, who arrived in North Korea Tuesday. On Thursday they will travel to the plutonium-producing Yongbyon reactor. International Atomic Energy Agency monitors have not visited the reactor since 2002, when they were expelled from the country.

Christopher Hill, who traveled to Pyongyang last week, said North Korea had expressed a willingness to close the reactor, and that United States expected the facility to be shut down and sealed within three weeks.

If Pyongyang honors its commitments, the five other six-party nations will to deliver 1 million metric tons of fuel aid to the country. South Korea will supply the first 50,000 metric tons, with the U.S., Russia and China responsible for the remainder.

Japan has maintained a tough stance on North Korea, saying it refuses to assist Pyongyang unless bilateral relations between the two countries are normalized. North Korea has already admitted that its security services kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s-80s. Of the 13, five returned home and the other eight reportedly died. However, Tokyo says more people may have been kidnapped.

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