US Secretary of State in Japan to discuss North Korea


Tokyo : US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Japan Wednesday, seeking to promote cooperation in dealing with North Korea and boost bilateral ties.

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Rice was expected to meet Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, for talks focusing on the possible realignment of US military bases in Japan and on ways to lessen tensions with North Korea.

Also on the agenda were alleged crimes committed by US soldiers at bases in Japan, including the rape of a 14-year-old Japanese schoolgirl on the southern island of Okinawa.

“The first point that I’d make (in the talks) is that we just regret deeply that this happened,” Rice said. “This should not have happened.”

“We certainly hope that there will not be lasting effects,” she said, insisting that the US military was doing its best to prevent the same mistakes from recurring.

The US and Japan were to reaffirm the need to press North Korea to stick to the pledge declaring its intention to disable its nuclear facility by the end of 2007 in return for energy and economic aid.

Rice told US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill to remain in Beijing to continue discussions with Chinese officials on “how to make progress on the six-party talks,” she was quoted as saying. Hill was initially scheduled to accompany the secretary of state to Tokyo.

“He’s continuing the discussions that we had with the Chinese side…about how to make progress on the six-party talks, how to get to a place that everybody is executing the obligations that they’ve undertaken,” Kyodo News Agency quoted Rice as saying in Tokyo.

Rice was also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba and Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura.

She travelled to Beijing and South Korea before arriving for a one-day visit to Tokyo.