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April 15, 2013

North Korea takes hard line while US talks up diplomacy

TOKYO (AP) — The United States and Japan opened the door yesterday to new nuclear talks with North Korea if the saber-rattling country lowered tensions and honored past agreements, even as it rejected South Korea’s latest offer of dialogue as a “crafty trick.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Tokyo that North Korea would find “ready partners” in the United States if it began abandoning its nuclear program.

Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, also demanded a resolution to a dispute concerning Japanese citizens abducted decades ago by North Korean officials.

The diplomats seemed to point the way for a possible revival of the six-nation talks that have been suspended for four years.

Kerry’s message of openness to diplomacy was clear, however unlikely the chances appeared that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s government would meet the American’s conditions.

“I’m not going to be so stuck in the mud that an opportunity to actually get something done is flagrantly wasted because of a kind of predetermined stubbornness,” he told U.S.-based journalists.

Tensions have run high on the Korean Peninsula for months, with North Korea testing a nuclear device and its intercontinental ballistic missile technology.

The reclusive communist state hasn’t stopped there. It has issued almost daily threats that have included possible nuclear strikes against the United States. Analysts and foreign officials say that is still beyond the North Koreans’ capability.

While many threats have been dismissed as bluster, U.S. and South Korean say they believe the North in the coming days may test a mid-range missile designed to reach as far as Guam, the U.S. territory in the Pacific where the Pentagon is deploying a land-based missile-defense system.

Japan is the last stop on a 10-day trip overseas for Kerry, who visited Seoul and Beijing as well in recent days.

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