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Saturday, July 8, 2006
Tokyo snubs Pyongyang threat over sanctions
Japan rejected North Korea's demand Friday to drop new economic sanctions over the North's Wednesday missile launches, ignoring Pyongyang's threat of "stronger measures" and "devastating consequences" unless it reversed its decision.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, speaking at a a news conference, expressed indignation at the threat, calling it "very regrettable."
"We would like (the North) to think about who brought about the current relationship. The abductions, the nuclear (arms) and the missile issues -- North Korea has caused all of them," the top government spokesman said, calling on the international community to put more pressure on the reclusive state.
Abe's reaction came after Song Il Ho, North Korea's ambassador in charge of diplomatic normalization talks with Japan, met Japanese reporters Friday in Pyongyang. He strongly criticized Tokyo's new sanctions, which were imposed in response to North Korea's test firing of seven ballistic missiles Wednesday, including a long-range Taepodong-2 apparently heading toward Hawaii. The missiles all fell into the Sea of Japan.
According to Kyodo News, Song told the reporters the sanctions "could bring about devastating consequences, the entire responsibility for which would rest with Japan."
Tokyo slapped a number of unilateral sanctions on the North Wednesday, including barring the North Korean ferry Mangyongbong-92, in response to the launches.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso told a separate news conference that Japan will continue to seek a resolution condemning the North's actions at the U.N. Security Council, instead of a nonbinding statement by the council president, as sought by China and Russia.
Japan has circulated a draft resolution condemning the North and barring any country from transferring funds, materials or technology that could be used for Pyongyang's missile or nuclear arms programs.
The U.S. and Japan have reacted strongly to the launches, particularly that of the Taepodong-2, because its range, estimated at between 3,500 km and 6,000 km, could put the U.S. mainland in its reach.
A ranking government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Pyongyang may have aimed the Taepodong-2 toward Hawaii, given the launch trajectory and its estimated range.
But another Defense Agency official said it will take time to analyze the data and determine North Korea's intentions. The missile came down in the Sea of Japan after traveling only a few hundred kilometers in an apparent malfunction.
North Korea claims to have plutonium-based nuclear weapons, but is not believed to have developed ICBM warheads, thus negating the strategic function of such missiles, experts say.
Senior government officials said Friday Tokyo has obtained information indicating two long-range Taepodong-2 missiles were transported into the Musudanri base on North Korea's northeast coast, leaving open the possibility of another launch following the one fired from the same base Wednesday.
But the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said there were no indications of an imminent launch Friday evening. The missile is believed near the launchpad.
South Korea's Yonghap News Agency meanwhile quoted South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang Ung as denying Japanese media reports about another missile being readied at the base.
The minister said the speculation may have been because two Taepodong missiles were initially transported to the base.
"The (Taepodong) missile has yet to be identified around the Musudanri launch site," Yonghap quoted the minister as saying.
Police arrested a man late Thursday for intruding into Foreign Ministry premises and splashing red paint around, apparently to protest the government's stance on North Korea, police officials said.
The man, only identified by police as a self-styled rightist, is 23 years old and from Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. He criticized the ministry for not taking a tough stance against Pyongyang's missile test-firings the day before.
The man climbed over a security fence in front of the ministry's main gate in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward at around 11:15 p.m. Thursday, throwing dozens of leaflets and splashing paint around the site. He was apprehended by riot police on the spot.
The leaflets contained messages that included "Weak-Kneed Diplomacy," police said.