NKorea warns it will ignore Japan at nuclear talks
By KWANGTAE KIM,Associated Press Writer AP - 2 hours 14 minutes ago
SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea said Saturday it will ignore Japan at upcoming six-nation talks on its nuclear program, citing Tokyo's refusal to send aid to the impoverished country as part of a disarmament agreement.
The warning comes as negotiators from six nations _ the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea, Japan and North Korea _ prepare to meet Monday in Beijing for talks that are expected to focus on how to verify Pyongyang's accounting of its nuclear program.
"We will neither treat Japan as a party to the talks nor deal with it even if it impudently appears in the conference room," an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
North Korea has issued similar warnings in the past, but Tokyo has continued to attend the negotiations that began in 2003.
Officials at Japan's Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment Saturday. In Seoul, South Korean nuclear envoy Kim Sook told The Associated Press that the talks should include all six nations. He declined to elaborate.
North Korea _ which conducted a nuclear test in 2006 _ agreed last year to disable its nuclear reactor in exchange for 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid, half of which has been delivered.
However, Japan has refused to donate its share, saying the North first must address the kidnappings of more than a dozen Japanese citizens in the 1970s and '80s.
In 2002, the North acknowledged kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens and allowed five to return home, saying the remaining eight had died. Japan has demanded proof of their deaths and an investigation into other suspected kidnappings.
The bilateral issue has slowed progress in the talks to denuclearize North Korea. In a deal struck in June, North Korea pledged to resolve the issue of Japanese abductions but no significant progress has been made and Pyongyang has sharpened the rhetoric against Tokyo in recent weeks.
The North's main paper, the Rodong Sinmun, on Tuesday accused the "Japanese reactionaries" of deliberately trying to derail the nuclear talks, noting the "hideous crimes" committed in the past by the ex-colonial power.
Japan "has neither justification nor qualification to participate in the talks. On the contrary, it only lays a hurdle in the way of achieving the common goal," KCNA quoted the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Saturday.
U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said he and North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, spoke about "the need for (North Korea) to do more to meet Japanese concerns. The two met in Singapore on Thursday and Friday, discussing verification, disablement of the reactor and the delivery of fuel oil.
Hill said Saturday that the Beijing discussions would include working out a detailed verification plan.
"We need a situation where when we begin the verification, there are no surprises," Hill told reporters after arriving in Seoul to meet with his South Korean counterpart.
North Korea submitted a detailed inventory of its past nuclear activities in June as part of the disarmament-for-aid pact but says it never agreed to allow inspectors to take samples from its nuclear complex to check its accounting.
Pyongyang halted the disablement process in August over the verification standoff with Washington and began taking steps to restore the reactor. Hill traveled to North Korea in October in a bid to save the disarmament pact.
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