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Saturday, March 14, 2009
Aso slams North launch plan but wary of sanctions
By MASAMI ITO
Prime Minister Taro Aso on Friday condemned North Korea's plan to send up a rocket that will cross Japan, but stopped short of calling on the United Nations to impose further sanctions on the country.
During a group interview held at the prime minister's office in Nagata-cho, Aso slammed Pyongyang's plan to launch what the North claims is a rocket carrying a communications satellite. The second stage of the rocket is expected to fall into the Pacific Ocean after crossing Japan.
Because of the similarity of the technology behind them, Japan considers the launch of a satellite-carrying rocket no less of a threat than an intercontinental ballistic missile.
"Even if it is a communications satellite, the launch clearly violates U.N. Resolution 1718 and it is natural for Japan . . . to strongly demand that North Korea call off its plan if it is seriously considering the launch," Aso said.
But the prime minister stopped short of demanding further U.N. sanctions if North Korea goes ahead with the launch.
"I don't think now is the time to say concretely what kind of sanctions" should be imposed, Aso said. "But if (North Korea) clearly violates the U.N. resolution, we would study (the reactions) of other countries."
Aso also touched on the abductee issue during the interview. While expressing satisfaction with Wednesday's meeting between the kin of abductee Yaeko Taguchi and former North Korean agent Kim Hyon Hui, who is believed to have learned Japanese from Taguchi, Aso stressed the meeting marked no progress in the abductee issue.
"From an emotional point of view, I really think it was great" that Kim and Taguchi's family were able to meet, Aso said. "But that does not mean that (the meeting) will directly lead to settling the issue."
Aso said Japan would continue looking for ways to resolve the issue through the framework of the six-party North-denuclearization talks but also urged Pyongyang to engage in bilateral negotiations.
"The abductee issue is one of the biggest problems for Japan and North Korea but the current situation is that North Korea won't easily agree to direct negotiations," Aso said. "We want to take proper measures and we are also hopeful of action on North Korea's part."