Mon, Feb 21, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Pyongyang sees red over Japan, US declaration

RATTLING SABERS North Korea yesterday called Japan's proposed defense policy changes a `plot to reinvade' and reiterated it will not join nuclear talks

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON AND REUTERS, TOKYO

Senior US and Japanese officials issued a joint declaration on Saturday expressing "deep concern" over North Korea's withdrawal from multilateral negotiations on its nuclear weapons program, while the North declared itself unwilling to participate in talks of any kind.

Meanwhile, North Korea yesterday called Japanese moves to change its defense policy a plot to "reinvade" it and said Tokyo had joined with the US in a hostile policy against it.

Japan in December unveiled a revamped defense policy that suggested a shift from the purely defensive posture in place since World War II and saw a larger Japanese role in global military cooperation, along with a better response to terrorist and missile attacks.

The new policy outline reflected concern about the threat from North Korea, which shocked Japan in 1998 when it launched a ballistic missile over Japan's mainland.

"The military threat touted by the Japanese militarists is a far-fetched allegation fabricated by themselves," said an editorial in the North Korean Communist Party daily Rodong Sinmun.

"They have joined in the US' vicious hostile policy toward the DPRK and its moves to stifle it, and, therefore, the situation on the Korean peninsula has reached the worst phase," the editorial added, but gave no further details.

A senior Chinese Communist Party official held talks in North Korea on Saturday, the latest in a flurry of efforts to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, but North Korea showed no signs of budging.

The sparring in Washington and Pyongyang stiffened even further their tense standoff over how to resolve the weapons dispute.

The joint Japanese-US statement followed security talks on North Korea and other issues between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their two Japanese counterparts.

The annual talks carried unusual urgency, they said, following North Korea's statement on Feb. 10 that it would not participate in six-party disarmament talks and that it already possessed nuclear weapons.

North Korea said on Saturday that it would not even talk directly with the US alone, something it has sought in the past and the Bush administration has refused.

Rice said, "The ministers and I urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks as the best way to end nuclear programs and the only way for North Korea to achieve better relations."

Underlining Japan's deepening concern, Defense Minister Yoshinori Ohno made a point of noting that a bill had been submitted to parliament calling for starting a missile-defense program for Japan.

In a news conference at the State Department, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said that Japan and the US had agreed that "especially China will play an important role" in persuading North Korea to return to the disarmament talks. China is North Korea's only close ally. The other participants in the talks, which stalled in June, have been Russia and South Korea.

Wang Jiarui, a senior Chinese Communist Party official, traveled to Pyongyang on Saturday to urge North Korea to rejoin the talks. But Wu Dawei, the Chinese vice foreign minister, told state television, "It is unlikely the six-party talks will be resumed in the near future" even though "all parties concerned, including China, are conducting consultations with each other positively."

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