Byline: Nicholas Kralev, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
TOKYO - The Bush administration's push to broaden any dialogue with North Korea to a multilateral process won cautious support yesterday from Japan, its closest ally in Asia - a modest boost to Washington's efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with the reclusive state.
Tokyo was the first - and diplomatically least challenging - stop on Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's first trip to East Asia since Pyongyang acknowledged in October that it had a secret uranium-enrichment program.
During his visits to Japan, China and South Korea, Mr. Powell said he was hoping to convince them that not only the United States but all regional powers should participate in talks with the North.
In meetings with Mr. Powell last night, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said their government "understands and shares" Washington's view, the secretary told reporters at a news briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo this morning.
"The United States and Japan agreed that these concerns must be addressed in a multilateral forum," he said in response to a question from The Washington Times.
Mr. Powell noted that his delegation shared ideas about a forum with the framework of the so-called "5 plus 5" process, which includes the five permanent Security Council members - the United States, Britain, Russia, China and France - as well as North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Australia and the European Union.
He added that his hosts had "some variations" of that proposal, but the Japanese government had no immediate comment.
Mr. Powell leaves today for Beijing, where the case for anything but direct U.S.-North Korean dialogue will be much more difficult to make.
China and South Korea, as well as Russia, another neighbor of the North that Washington also wants to take part in the multilateral process, have been reluctant to endorse the idea of a multilateral forum. Pyongyang has been calling for one-on-one talks with the United States since its October announcement, during a visit by James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. …