Monday, June 19, 2006

Japan to Respond Severely to a N. Korea Missile Test

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said his government will respond with ``severe'' measures if North Korea ignores calls to abandon its reported missile test.

Koizumi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe urged North Korea to return to six-nation talks over its nuclear program that broke off last November. Abe said that the United Nations Security Council may impose economic sanctions should North Korea carry out the test.

``North Korea will gain nothing from a missile launch,'' Abe, the government's top spokesman, said at a regular press conference in Tokyo. ``Japan and the U.S. will cooperate in dealing with this and, if North Korea launches a missile, we will respond severely.''

North Korea may have completed fueling a long-range ballistic missile as a prelude to testing it, Reuters cited unidentified U.S. government officials as saying yesterday. Japan and the U.S. agree that a launch would be a threat to regional security and a violation of test-ban agreements, Koizumi said at press conference in Tokyo.

North Korea vowed to boost its ``military deterrent'' because of U.S. provocations, the official Korean Central News Agency said late yesterday.

Japan's Response

Abe said he spoke with U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley by telephone. Foreign Minister Taro Aso two days ago met with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer with the two agreeing that North Korea must refrain from any missile tests.

Japan is ``unlikely to immediately appeal to arms'' if a missile drops on the country, Aso said yesterday on Asahi television. Japan's response ``would be more than a protest,'' he said.

Abe today declined to comment on what actions the government might take in the event of a test launch, adding that laws are already in place to allow for sanctions and closing of ports to North Korean ships.

The U.S., South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have been trying to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Six-nation talks ended without an agreement in November, raising concerns about North Korea's commitment to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

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