North Korea takes centre stage at G8 meeting

June 27th, 2008 - 12:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Kyoto (Japan), June 27 (DPA) North Korea’s nuclear declaration and expected removal from a US terrorism list is in the spotlight Friday at two-day talks by the foreign ministers of the Group of Eight (G8), creating an awkward situation for host Japan. Tokyo, which in the past demanded to link de-listing North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism with the resolution of past abductions of Japanese nationals, has to reassure its public that Japan still enjoys international support on the abduction issue.

North Korea admitted in 2002 to the abduction of 13 Japanese, saying it used the captives to train spies in Japanese language and culture.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda cautiously welcomed the declaration, moving quickly to stress that it would have no negative effect on Japanese efforts. Tokyo still enjoyed full US support in its campaign to resolve the abduction issue, he said.

In Kyoto, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura will have to use the opportunity to push his fellow G8 members to keep up pressure on North Korea. The abduction issue is likely to be included in the G8’s final statement, diplomats said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed North Korea to take the abduction issue seriously.

Careful verification of the nuclear declaration, which could take up to 45 days, must precede removal of Pyongyang from the terrorism blacklist, the US said.

As foreign ministers of the world’s seven largest industrial economies and Russia discuss Pyongyang’s denuclearisation progress, talks on how to persuade Iran to forego its controversial uranium enrichment drive, the crises in Zimbabwe and Sudan and the Middle East peace process may take a back seat.

On Thursday, the ministers reaffirmed pledges to increase aid to Afghanistan, a key state in G8 counterterrorism efforts. Myanmar was urged to accept more foreign aid workers after its devastating cyclone in May, Japanese officials said.

The Kyoto meeting, last in a series of ministerial talks preparing for the July 7-9 G8 summit on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, concludes Friday.

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