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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Japan warns N Korea on nuclear plans
North Korean soldiers marching
Asia is concerned at North Korea's military threat
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said North Korea must stick to international agreements on nuclear weapons if it wants to make progress in talks with Japan.

The two countries are due to hold normalisation talks at the end of this month, following a landmark visit to Pyongyang by Mr Koizumi last month.

But progress has been put in doubt by a US report that North Korea has admitted to developing nuclear weapons, and this issue will now go top of the agenda.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Mr Koizumi said dialogue was the way forward
The US State Department on Wednesday said North Korea confessed to the programme earlier this month, after Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly produced "evidence" that it possesses a programme to enrich uranium - a key ingredient of nuclear weapons.

There has been diplomatic wrangling across Asia, as North Korea's neighbours try to work out how to respond.

Two top US officials, John Bolton and James Kelly, are in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials.

Mr Kelly is due to fly on to South Korea and Japan, as the US began a diplomatic offensive to try and persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear plans.

In a speech to parliament, Mr Koizumi said: "the major prerequisite for making progress in the negotiations is that the principles and spirit of the Pyongyang declaration between Japan and North Korea are sincerely observed".

Under the Pyongyang declaration, both sides affirmed the pledge "to observe all international agreements for a comprehensive solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula".

South Korea's newspapers responded angrily to the news, with some papers saying President Kim Dae-Jung's policy of engaging with the North had been proved a mistake.

The South Korean government has said it intends go ahead with cabinet-level talks in Pyongyang this weekend where it would "strongly raise the issue", according to the National Security Council (NSC), which held an overnight session.

Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun is leading a five-strong delegation heading to the North Korean capital on Saturday for four days of talks.

Koizumi's decision

The North Korean revelation comes at a difficult time for Japan, which has started to engage with North Korea. At their joint 17 September summit, both sides agreed to abide by international agreements on nuclear weapons.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il also admitted after years of denials that North Korea had abducted 13 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s to teach Japanese to North Korean spies.

North Korean propaganda posters showing missiles hitting the US Capitol
North Korean propaganda is firmly anti-US
On Friday Mr Koizumi told parliament that diplomacy was the best way forwards.

"I decided to re-open negotiations because taking a step towards turning the relationship from one of enmity to co-operation will benefit Japan," he said.

On Thursday, the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said North Korea was believed to already have a "small number" of nuclear weapons".

President George Bush described North Korea's admission as "troubling" - but said he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the problem.

North Korea is one of three states that make up the "axis of evil" according to President Bush - along with Iran and Iraq.

However, in recent months there has been a thaw in Pyongyang's dealings with the outside world.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matt Frei
"It creates a serious crisis in one of the most volatile corners of the globe"
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
"The US...has assessed that [North Korea] may have one or two nuclear weapons"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

18 Oct 02 | Media reports
18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
19 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 May 02 | Americas
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