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Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006

INTERNATIONAL OUTRAGE PREDICTED

Kato hits Nakagawa's nuclear suggestion


Staff writer

OSAKA -- A close ally of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday criticized Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Shoichi Nakagawa for suggesting Japan debate possessing nuclear weapons.

News photo
Koichi Kato

"Nakagawa's remark that Japan should discuss acquiring nuclear weapons because of North Korea's nuclear test is going to provoke a strong international reaction. But Japan is the one country that, above all others, does not desire nuclear weapons," said Koichi Kato, a Lower House LDP lawmaker who once served as the LDP's secretary general and is a good friend of Koizumi.

Nakagawa's remark came a few days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan had no plans to possess nuclear weapons, and after a week in which many in the international community, including former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, warned that North Korea's declared test of a nuclear weapon Oct. 9 might lead Japan to develop its own arsenal.

"Japan has the technology to make nuclear weapons," Kato said. "But if, in the future, serious discussion takes place on acquiring nuclear weapons, it will affect our nuclear power industry, upon which we rely for much of our energy. Japan has to import uranium for its nuclear power plants, and discussions about acquiring nuclear weapons will impact international debate on whether it's wise to supply Japan with uranium."

Speaking to a group of Osaka business executives, Kato said North Korea's nuclear test has to be viewed in the context of events of the past four years, especially since January 2002, when U.S. President George W. Bush named North Korea part of an "axis of evil."

"Since then, America invaded Iraq and is pushing for sanctions on Iran for its enrichment program. North Korea has attempted to negotiate bilaterally with the U.S. but has been rebuffed, partially because the U.S. has been occupied with Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, North Korea's nuclear test can be seen as a diplomatic move against the United States," Kato said.

"However, if the Democratic Party wins a majority in the U.S. congressional election next month, maybe the idea of speaking directly with North Korea will gain more currency in Washington," he said.

Kato also criticized the Japanese media for whipping up an image of North Korea as a military superpower when in fact it is weak.



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