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Five countries plan N Korea talks in Beijing

Foreign ministers from five countries will meet in Beijing on Friday to discuss North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2006 08:20 IST

Foreign ministers from five countries, including the United States, Japan and South Korea, will meet in Beijing on Friday to discuss North Korea's nuclear ambitions, a Japanese daily reported on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday, is to hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday morning before leaving for Seoul and then travelling on to Beijing.

She is seeking a unified stance on UN sanctions slapped on Pyongyang on Saturday for exploding a nuclear device.

A US official accompanying Rice said five-party talks in Beijing had been provisionally set for Friday but were later cancelled because of "scheduling problems."

Assistant US Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who is also in Tokyo, told Japanese reporters when asked about the reported Beijing talks that no such meeting was expected to take place, according to a US embassy official in Tokyo.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon has no plans to go to Beijing for such a meeting at this point, a diplomatic source in Seoul said.

Quoting unspecified diplomatic sources, the Sankei newspaper said foreign ministers from the United States, Japan, South Korea, Russia and China would gather in Beijing on Friday.

The five nations had been engaged in talks with North Korea to persuade it to abandon its nuclear programme. The talks have been stalled for a year after North Korea refused to participate, citing financial restrictions imposed on it by Washington.

Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan was visiting Pyongyang to try to persuade North Korea to take part in the Beijing talks, the paper said.

Japanese government officials were not immediately available for comment.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously this month to impose financial and weapons sanctions on North Korea in response to its announcement that it had successfully conducted a nuclear test on October 9.

The US government confirmed on Monday that the blast, which prompted worldwide condemnation and the harsh sanctions regime, was a nuclear explosion as Pyongyang claimed.