North Korea's long-awaited declaration of its nuclear program was welcomed by Group of Eight foreign ministers who are meeting in Japan. Ministers stressed that all claims would have to be thoroughly verified.
Has North Korea come clean about its weapons program?
North Korea's delayed declaration of its nuclear program put it at the center of G8 foreign minister talks being held in Kyoto, Japan on Friday, June 27. Ministers were meeting for their second and final day of talks which will set the political agenda for the annual G8 summit in July.
Ministers expressed guarded optimism about North Korea's recent promise that it had handed over a thorough declaration of its nuclear program. Careful verification of the declaration, which could take up to 45 days, must precede removal of Pyongyang from a terrorism blacklist, the United States said.
US officials say North Korea's declaration, which came six months after a December deadline, does not answer all concerns about its nuclear program.
Claims need verification
G8 ministers will also keep pressure on Iran
China distributed North Korea's list of nuclear facilities and materials to its partners in the six-party talks. The documents needed to be verified before North Korea could be taken off a terrorism blacklist, foreign ministers said.
"We agreed that the important thing is to properly verify it and to make sure it leads to the final aim of abandoning nuclear weapons," Japanese foreign minister Masahiko Komura said.
As ministers met in Japan, North Korea prepared Friday to blow up a cooling tower at its main nuclear reactor in a bid to show that it was serious about coming clean on its nuclear program.
Abduction issue concerns Tokyo
Tokyo continues to be concerned about the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea. In 2002, the communist regime in North Korea admitted to having abducted 13 Japanese, using the captives to train spies.
Japan had previously demanded that de-listing North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism not happen until the spy issue was resolved. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda stressed that Japan still enjoys full US support in its campaign to resolve the abduction issue.
"On the abduction issue, we gained the understanding and support of all those present," Komura said.
G8 meetings typically attract protestors
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed North Korea to take the abduction issue seriously and it will likely be included in the G8's final statement, diplomats said.
Koumura said the G8 ministers also agreed to keep the pressure on Tehran to abandon its uranium enrichment drive, while reaffirming their commitment to ongoing dialogue.
The US and Europe want Tehran to curb its nuclear program. They accuse Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, of wanting to make nuclear arms, an allegation which Tehran denies.
Zimbabwe , Sudan on agenda
A message condemning violence and chaos in Zimbabwe was also expected on Friday, as Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe ignored international concerns and forged ahead with a run-off poll after the opposition pulled out of the presidential elections.
The G8 ministers' final statement is also likely to contain statements on the Middle East peace process and Sudan.