North Korea, the Middle East and bilateral military relations will be key topics when the top US and Russian defense officials meet this weekend, US officials said on Friday.
A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Ruff, confirmed to reporters that Defense Secretary Donald Rums-feld would be meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Fairbanks, today for talks on those subjects, though he offered no details.
According to a Russian government publication, Rossiiskaia Gazeta, the two officials will discuss bilateral military technology cooperation, antimissile defense and the war against terror.
Iran's nuclear program is also likely to be discussed by the two men, as a UN Security Council deadline looms for Tehran to agree to halt its nuclear fuel processing, which the US and other major powers believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
Early this week Tehran said it would not halt uranium enrichment before talks on a package of incentives offered by the US, Russia, China and three European nations to give up part of its nuclear development program.
On Tuesday Iran countered the package with its own offer to engage in serious negotiations to forestall the crisis, though without first halting fuel processing.
Washington warned that Iran only has a few days before the Security Council deadline, after which the US wants the council to hit Iran with sanctions. However, Russia has said it is premature to talk about sanctions.
Russia and the US are preoccupied as well with North Korea, whose nuclear program and missile tests have raised alarms.
On Friday both Japan and South Korea warned Pyongyang against undertaking a nuclear test, which the US television station ABC recently reported could be imminent, citing a US State Department official.
"If North Korea carries out a nuclear test it would be a grave threat to the peace," Japan's chief cabinet secretary Shinzo Abe said.