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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Koizumi warns Pyongyang on ICBM test


Staff writer

Japan, in tandem with the United States, will take a tough stance against North Korea if it test-fires a long-range ballistic missile, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi warned Monday.

News photo
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi holds a news conference at his official residence Monday.

Tensions are mounting in Japan, the U.S. and Australia over the possibility of another alarming launch like the Taepodong-1 that flew over Japan in August 1998. This time, the missile is suspected to be a Taepodong-2, which has enough range to fly over the Japanese archipelago and reach the continental U.S.

"If North Korea does not listen to us and launches a missile, the Japanese government would have to take severe measures in cooperation with the U.S.," Koizumi told reporters at his official residence.

North Korea has reportedly finished fueling and prepping the missile at a base in the north of the reclusive state, and Japanese and U.S. officials suspect a launch is imminent.

Koizumi also said the government is working with the U.S. to pressure Pyongyang into canceling the launch and added he remains hopeful the North will do so.

"North Korea's developing and maintaining of nuclear weapons will not bring any benefit to the country," the prime minister said at the news conference held to mark the end of the ordinary Diet session Sunday.

The best course of action Pyongyang could take would be to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons and gain the trust of the international community, he said.

As for Pyongyang's motives in test-firing a Taepodong-2, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe earlier in the day said he didn't want to speculate, but added, "I don't believe launching the missile would be of any benefit to North Korea."

Abe also said both South Korea and China realize a launch will trigger fierce international condemnation. He repeated that Japan and the U.S. will urge Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks, the stalled dialogue being used by the U.S., Japan, China, Russia and the two Koreas to defuse the Pyongyang nuclear crisis.



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