TOKYO – The U.S. and Japan plan a hard line against North Korea's nuclear programs in upcoming six-way talks, demanding Pyongyang immediately halt its nuclear tests and announce a schedule for disarming, a news report said Thursday.
The two allies also will push for North Korea to clarify a means of verification so outsiders can see whether the isolated, insular country is following through with disarmament promises, the Yomiuri newspaper said, citing unidentified government sources.
The solidified front comes a day after North Korea said it would return to nuclear disarmament talks in an effort to get access to frozen overseas bank accounts, a vital source of hard currency for the impoverished and isolated communist nation.
The nuclear talks — which include China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas — reached an agreement in September 2005 where the North pledged to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees, but there was little progress toward implementing the accord. Tensions only worsened last month when North Korea tested its first nuclear explosion.
The U.S. had previously maintained that financial restrictions it has placed on North Korea are unrelated to the nuclear talks. But the United States said Wednesday it would agree to take up the matter in the revived arms negotiations.
During upcoming talks, Tokyo and Washington want North Korea to make stronger commitments "because North Korea has made the situation more serious compared with that surrounding previous talks," Yomiuri cited an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as saying about Pyongyang's Oct. 9 nuclear test, which drew widespread international condemnation.
The two allies will demand that Pyongyang halt future nuclear tests, scrap nuclear-related materials, return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Yomiuri said.
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush indicated on Wednesday his determination to apply sanctions imposed against North Korea, even though the regime in Pyongyang has agreed to return to nuclear disarmament talks.
The financial sanction dispute centers on the United States banning transactions between American financial institutions and Banco Delta Asia SARL, which is in the Chinese territory of Macau.
Washington maintains the bank was being used by North Korea for money laundering.
In a statement Wednesday, the North's Foreign Ministry made only indirect mention of its atomic test, saying it hoped to resolve U.S. financial restrictions by going back to six-nation arms talks that it has boycotted for a year.
Confirming U.S. and Chinese reports of the agreement Tuesday, the North's Foreign Ministry said Pyongyang decided to return to the arms talks "on the premise that the issue of lifting financial sanctions will be discussed and settled between the (North) and the U.S. within the framework of the six-party talks."