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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japan and U.S. Back 5-Nation Talks

TOKYO -- Japan and the United States will back five-nation talks on the nuclear standoff with North Korea at an upcoming international summit, Japan's foreign minister said Monday, adding that the two allies demanded concrete results from future negotiations with the reclusive communist state.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said the idea of a five-way meeting -- between Japan, the United States, South Korea, China and Russia -- came up in a meeting with R. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, in Tokyo on Monday.

"Japan and the U.S. will propose the five-way talks [in Vietnam]," Aso told reporters after the meeting with Burns, referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi. "We don't know yet if the others will go along with the proposal," he added.

Burns was on a tour of the region to coordinate policy on North Korea, which last week announced it would return to six-party nuclear talks that have been stalled for a year. It was unclear when those negotiations would resume.

Burns rejected a North Korean call over the weekend for Japan to be excluded from the six-way talks because of its demand -- reiterated on Monday -- that Pyongyang not attend the talks as a declared nuclear power.

"These are six-party talks and the United States believes that one of our most important partners in that configuration is Japan," Burns told reporters.

North Korea on Oct. 9 tested an underground nuclear device, triggering United Nations Security Council sanctions and raising concerns the hard-line regime was on its way to developing a nuclear weapon that could threaten its neighbors.

Both Japan and the United States demanded progress in the six-way talks on their demands that North Korea give up its quest for a nuclear weapon and allow outside verification that it is complying with such a pledge.

Japanese officials said Tokyo welcomed North Korea's announcement it would return to talks, but that the negotiations were not an end in themselves.

"Carrying out the six-party talks is not the objective," Aso said. "The six party talks is a means and the objective is the abandonment of nuclear weapons."

Aso also said Japan and the United States would not accept North Korea as a nuclear state. Japanese officials have been arguing against allowing North Korea back to the negotiating table as an atomic power.

Also in Tokyo was South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon. Ban, the next UN secretary-general, met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday after talks with Aso the previous day.

Ban and Abe agreed for the need to pressure Pyongyang with sanctions while also leaving room for negotiations, a Foreign Ministry statement said.