U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once again reminded North Korea who is to play the leading role in the upcoming six-party talks on North Korean disarmament.
According to Rice, who is now on an Asian tour, the upcoming talks on disarmament will fail unless North Korea makes a commitment to abandon its nuclear weapons.
"What we really need is a strategic decision on the part of the North that they are indeed ready to give up their nuclear weapons program," Rice told reporters after the meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura in Tokyo, reports the AP.
Actually, Rice seems to ignore reports coming from North Korea itself. Yesterday the communist state once again declared it would not need nuclear weapons if the U.S. didn’t threaten it.
Rice also said Washington strongly supports Japan's efforts to resolve the cases of Japanese citizens kidnapped decades ago by North Korean agents. The North has released five of the victims, but Japan believes other victims may still remain in the reclusive country.
"We agreed that there must be an actual progress in the next round of talks, and we expect North Korea's serious and constructive handling," Machimura said. "We also confirmed the importance of close cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea on the issue."
Rice also expressed no objections to a South Korean donation of 500,000 tons of rice to North Korea, saying the gesture will not undercut the U.S. negotiating position heading into the six-party talks.
Rice said South Korea was responding to "miserable conditions" in North Korea and noted that the United States itself in recent days offered 50,000 tons of food aid to North Korea.
Despite the call for concessions from the North, Rice pledged Washington's commitment to the upcoming talks, which are scheduled to resume the week of July 25 in Beijing.
"We're ready to negotiate seriously. We are prepared to roll up our sleeves and do everything we can to make these talks a success," she said, adding that all of the partners in the talks - China, South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States - were aiming toward the common goal of a nuclear-free North Korea.
Ahead of the talks, Japanese officials said Japan, South Korea and the United States were trying to arrange three-way talks on North Korea before the broader meetings.
"We believe we should have Japan-US-South Korea talks as soon as possible, and we are currently arranging a date and a venue," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said. "We are hoping to have a meeting by the weekend."
North Korea announced over the weekend that it would end its yearlong boycott of the six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programs.