Japan seeks strong U.N. response on North Korea rocket


  • World
  • Tuesday, 07 Apr 2009

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan called for a strong response on Tuesday from the U.N. Security Council to North Korea's rocket launch, which analysts say was a test of a long-range ballistic missile, but Tokyo acknowledged that divisions remained.

The five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- plus Japan met at U.N. headquarters on Monday to explore a possible compromise on a response to the launch, but reached no agreement.

They scheduled another meeting for Tuesday.

"All countries are agreed that a clear and firm response is needed. But the content is still under deliberation. Agreement has not been reached, there are various opinions," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a news conference.

"The Japanese government continues to think it desirable for a new Security Council resolution to be passed. It is important for the Security Council to issue a strong and unified message," Kawamura said.

Japan's lower house of parliament passed a resolution on Tuesday calling on the international community to enforce sanctions against North Korea and urging Japan's government to impose additional measures.

Diplomats have said China and Russia would probably accept a Security Council warning to Pyongyang urging it to comply with U.N. resolutions and return to six-party talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear arms programme. But they would be opposed to a binding resolution intended to punish Pyongyang.

"We have to create an environment that makes North Korea realise that its actions are having a negative effect," Japan's administrative reform minister Akira Amari told reporters on Tuesday, calling for sanctions to be enforced.

"The Security Council should share this view and our aim is to have them share this view," he said.

Analysts said Sunday's launch of the rocket, which flew over Japan during its 3,200 km (2,000 mile) flight, was effectively a test of a ballistic missile designed to carry a warhead as far as the U.S. state of Alaska.

EMBOLDENED NORTH

The U.S. military and South Korea said no part of the Taepodong-2 rocket entered orbit, but analysts said the launch showed the impoverished North had greatly increased the range of its missiles even though it may be years away from building a missile to threaten the United States.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's defiance also grabbed global attention for his destitute state and bettered his hand in the often-employed negotiating strategy of using military threats to squeeze concessions from regional powers.

North Korea is likely to use the first successful launch of the Taepodong-2 to extract concessions for showing up at future six-party talks. Pyongyang also could seek to water down obligations it signed onto under previous negotiations.

"The core element in this situation is the six-party talks," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said at U.N. headquarters on Monday.

"The key thing is to make sure that we do not confine ourselves to an emotional knee-jerk reaction because what we do need is a common strategy and not losing sight of the goal -- and this is the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," Churkin said.

The nuclear negotiations have been stalled since December. They involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.

Washington would like a resolution that would expand existing financial restrictions on Pyongyang. But diplomats said it might have to settle for a nonbinding statement.

Russia and China have made clear they would veto any attempt at new sanctions. Beijing, the nearest North Korea has to a major ally, has said any reaction must be "cautious and proportionate." Three other countries on the 15-member council support the Russian and Chinese view, diplomats said.

The United States, Japan and South Korea say the launch violated Security Council resolutions banning the firing of ballistic missiles by Pyongyang, imposed after a nuclear test and other missile exercises in 2006.

Japan's Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada was questioned in a parliamentary committee about the possibility of Japan developing pre-emptive strike capability to deal with the threat of a missile attack, a move that could anger South Korea and China.

"At the moment, Japan does not possess the means to attack enemy territory," he said.

"Regardless of whether we have the necessary equipment to attack enemy territory, a political decision would be needed, he said. "I think it is important to hold a broad debate, including in parliament, about what the country should do."

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