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UPDATE1: Japan believes too soon to resume 6-nation talks on N. Korea.

TOKYO, March 1 Kyodo

(EDS: ADDING DETAILS)

Japan believes it is too soon to resume six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, as well as bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang, despite some progress being made over the standoff, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Thursday.

''If you ask me whether we are in a situation where the six-party talks can be convened immediately, I would say we are not,'' Gemba said. ''But I believe the environment for (restarting) the talks is improving gradually.''

Gemba said it is ''extremely important'' for North Korea to take ''concrete action'' toward denuclearization and to halt all of its nuclear facilities in a verifiable manner.

On Wednesday, North Korea said it has agreed to implement a moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and uranium enrichment activity in return for food aid from the United States after their high-level negotiations last week in Beijing, which were held for the first time since the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il about two months ago.

The agreement jointly announced by the United States and North Korea has raised hopes for the revival of the six-nation talks, involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The multilateral talks have been dormant since December 2008 as North Korea has not fulfilled its promise of giving up its nuclear programs.

Gemba told reporters that the nuclear agreement reached by the United States and North Korea last week is ''an important step'' toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Asked about the possibility of resuming bilateral dialogue with North Korea, which has no diplomatic ties with Japan, he said the time is not ripe.

Nonetheless, Gemba said, ''The window for dialogue is still open and we have to think about an appropriate time and way.''

Japan and North Korea have not held intergovernmental talks since August 2008.

Japan maintains a policy of seeking a comprehensive resolution of North Korea's nuclear, missile and abduction issues before normalizing ties with the impoverished state.

North Korea has insisted that the issue of past abductions of Japanese citizens by Pyongyang has been settled.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Mar 5, 2012
Words:351
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