NKorea off US blacklist "regrettable": Japan

NKorea off US blacklist regrettable: Japan

Tokyo: Japan’s finance minister branded a US decision to remove North Korea from a terrorism blacklist as part of a nuclear disarmament deal “extremely regrettable," Japanese media reported.

The State Department announced yesterday the United States had taken North Korea off its list of state sponsors of terrorism, saying an agreement had been reached on steps to verify Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament.

“It’s extremely regrettable, and I believe abductions amount to terrorist acts," Shoichi Nakagawa told Japanese reporters in Washington at the Group of Seven meeting of finance ministers.

“I don’t think the United States made the decision after a close consultation with its ally Japan," he said.

Japan had urged the United States not to delist North Korea, pressing first for more information on the fate of Japanese civilians kidnapped by the North in the 1970s and 1980s to train the communist regime’s spies.

Japan has taken the hardest line in the six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear programmes, negotiations that also involve the two Koreas, Russia and host China.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters “the Japanese government will work determinedly" to avoid the abduction issue being left out of future six-party talks in the wake of the delisting.

The deal announced by the US State Department was aimed at reviving the six-party disarmament negotiations that were threatened with collapse just months before US President George W Bush leaves office on January 20.