Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is on an official visit to Japan, has called on North Korea to return immediately to the six-party talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear weapons programme. In a speech delivered at a university in Tokyo, Ms Rice said that North Korea must understand that it can no longer stall.
Last month North Korea withdrew from the six-party talks that had begun in June 2004 ostensibly in reaction to being branded an 'outpost of tyranny' by the US. The communist regime, stung by the label, has demanded an apology and repeated its demands for a formal pledge by the US that it won't invade the North, a pledge that Secretary Rice reiterated in Tokyo. "We have no intention of attacking or invading North Korea," she said, "and are prepared, with others in the six-way process, to offer multilateral security assurances to North Korea in the context of ending its nuclear program."
The other members of the six-party talks are Russia, Japan, South Korea and China. China has been the talks main sponsor and has acted as a mediator with North Korea.
Ms Rice, who is scheduled to arrive in China tomorrow, said that Beijing, as Pyongyang's main ally, has a special role to play. Together China and the US can make progress in this and other issues of common interest.
In Tokyo Ms Rice also urged Beijing to develop a more open society. "Even China must eventually embrace some form of open, genuinely representative government if it is to reap the benefits and meet the challenges of a globalising world".
The US Secretary's visit to Japan is part of wider Asian tour. She has already visited India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and, after Japan, she flies to South Korea and on to China.