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Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006

Japan talk of nukes 'not desirable': Ban


Staff writer

Ban Ki Moon, South Korea's foreign minister and the next U.N. secretary general, voiced concern Monday over discussions in Japan about the possibility of developing nuclear weapons in response to the recent nuclear test by North Korea.

News photo
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting at the Prime Minister's Official Residence on Monday. AP PHOTO

Speaking through an interpreter at a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Ban said: "Not only as the South Korean foreign minister, but also as the (next) U.N. secretary general, I'd like to express concern."

Ban said he understands the Japanese government will maintain its nonnuclear policy, as affirmed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But he said it is still "not desirable" that influential politicians continue to discuss possessing nuclear arms as policy option.

In response to the reported nuclear test by Pyongyang on Oct. 9, Shoichi Nakagawa, policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has repeatedly called for discussions on whether Japan should arm itself with nuclear weapons, ringing alarm bells both at home and overseas about a possible nuclear arms race in Asia.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso also floated his own ideas about a nuclear Japan but later toned down his remarks in line with the government's official stance. He has since emphasized the nonnuclear policy.

Ban said, "In a number of ways, such remarks are not desirable for the future of Japan."

Ban, who will resign from the South Korean Cabinet on Friday and assume his U.N. post in January, is on his last trip to Japan as foreign minister. He met with Abe earlier in the day and with Aso on Sunday evening.

At the meeting with Abe, Ban said Seoul will "adequately implement" a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear test.

The two also agreed "on the importance of applying pressure, while keeping open a route for dialogue" with North Korea, the Foreign Ministry said.

At the news conference, Ban said the six-party framework, consisting of the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the United States, should play a key role in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.

Ban denied media reports that he is considering a trip to Pyongyang to discuss the issue, although he said he is ready to undertake initiatives as U.N. secretary general.

He also said he is thinking of appointing a special U.N. envoy to handle issues related to the Korean Peninsula.

Asked to comment on the death sentence handed down Sunday to former Iraq President Saddam Hussein, Ban said he accepts the ruling as a decision made by the Iraqi people.



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