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Show of unity over North Korea

The US, Japan and South Korea have said they will not resume nuclear negotiations with North Korea until it ends its "provocative and belligerent" behaviour and takes concrete steps to roll back its nuclear arms programme.

"They need to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose in ending their provocations and let the world know they are now ready to come to the table and fulfil the commitments they have already made," US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said after meeting Japanese foreign minister Seiji Maehara and his South Korean counterpart Kim Sung-hwan in Washington.

Mrs Clinton's meeting was intended to demonstrate a serious response to recent North Korean actions, including its deadly shelling of a South Korean island last month and its announced expansion of a uranium enrichment capability that the US and others see as a defiant and dangerous step.

Conspicuous in their absence, however, were representatives of the two other countries that have worked with the US, Japan and South Korea on the North Korean problem - China and Russia. Together with North Korea, they are members of what has become known as the six-party talks.

Asked about China's absence, Mrs Clinton said the meeting was specifically intended to co-ordinate with US treaty allies - Japan and South Korea - rather than convene a larger group.

China, a traditional supporter of North Korea, has called for an emergency session of the so-called six-party talks - with the US, Japan, South Korea, Russia and China in negotiations with North Korea.

But Mrs Clinton made clear that Washington, Tokyo and Seoul viewed a resumption of talks as tantamount to rewarding North Korea for behaving badly.

In a joint written statement, the three officials condemned North Korea's construction of a new uranium enrichment facility, saying it violated United Nations Security Council resolutions as well as the North's commitments in a September 2005 agreement with the other parties to the six-party talks.

"We would like China to have a clearer stance in giving warning to North Korea" about the consequences of its actions, Mr Kim said.

Mr Kim and Mr Maehara later met Barack Obama's national security adviser Tom Donilon at the White House.

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