North Korean diplomats today rejected a Japanese demand to stop developing nuclear weapons, a condition for receiving badly needed economic aid.
North Korea also accused Japan of reneging on its pledge to return five Japanese citizens who are visiting Japan for the first time since North Korean agents abducted them nearly 25 years ago.
There were no smiles when delegates from the two nations shook hands at the Japanese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to resume full-scale diplomatic dialogue for the first time in two years. After only a few hours of frank conversation, it was clear that little immediate headway was likely in the contentious bargaining between the Asian neighbors.
That bargaining was made more pressing by North Korea's admission that it has continued to develop nuclear weapons, despite agreeing in 1994 not to.
The Bush administration wants to avoid a serious crisis in Asia while its focus is on disarming Iraq, but there is no easy solution for North Korea.
The talks today were the first with North Korean officials since President Bush met with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung on Saturday to coordinate an agenda for negotiations with Pyongyang.