Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Japan says N Korea will not succeed in plans to isolate it

AFP , TOKYO

Japan said yesterday it would not give in to North Korea's attempts to isolate it from its partners in efforts to end Pyongyang's nuclear program, after rare talks in Hanoi broke down without any progress.

The bilateral talks, set up as part of a six-nation accord on halting North Korea's nuclear drive, abruptly ended on Thursday with the two sides failing to even set a date for a new meeting.

Japan, which has refused to fund the nuclear deal, will continue to press North Korea on an emotionally charged row over its past kidnappings of Japanese nationals, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said.

"It is only natural that they would try to isolate Japan," Aso told reporters.

"But the most important point of the six-way talks is that we coordinate with other countries and find answers through dialogue" on the abductions, Aso said.

Pyongyang has acknowledged kidnapping 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies. It returned five victims and their families, and says the rest are dead.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who says the other abductees are alive, built his career campaigning for tough action against Pyongyang over the kidnappings.

Japanese newspapers across the political spectrum supported Abe's firm stance.

North Korea is "strategically isolating Japan in order to step up pressure in negotiations," the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun said in an editorial.

"The sudden breakoff of talks may have been pre-planned," it said. "North Korea's aim is for relations not to advance with Japan."

"North Korea is being irritating, but we should remain calm and persistent," the Asahi said.

The breakdown of talks shows that North Korea wants "to give the impression that Japan has become the obstacle to progress in the six-party talks," the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

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