Mon, Jul 10, 2006 - Page 1 News List

North Korea and Japan square off over missile tests

CRYING WOLF The North's leader said that his country is ready for invasion and war, while Tokyo refused to rule out a preemptive attack

AFP , SEOUL

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il vowed no compromise and said he was braced for "all-out war" as tension mounted yesterday before a UN vote on whether to impose sanctions on Pyongyang for its missile tests.

Japan, which has led the push with the US to punish the North, said it would not rule out a preemptive strike on North Korea in case of any direct nuclear threat. Seoul accused Tokyo of aggravating the situation.

As China and Russia held firm against the UN draft resolution to impose further sanctions on the impoverished North, a US envoy stressed the need for a diplomatic solution on disarmament and urged Pyongyang to return to stalled talks on its nuclear program.

Kim, in his first reported remarks since Pyongyang test-fired seven missiles into the sea last Wednesday, was unyielding.

"The general has declared that not even a tiny concession will be made to the imperialist US invaders, our archenemy," said a broadcast on North Korean state television.

Kim, who never speaks himself in public, said that if the US took "revenge," it would mean "all-out war."

"It is not empty talk for the DPRK [the Democratic People's Republic of Korea] to respond with revenge to any revenge by the enemy and with all-out war to an all-out war," the TV said.

It added: "It is out of the general's conviction, desire and courage that we should respond to the enemy's knife with a sword and to the enemy's gun with a cannon."

Last week's missile launch included the new Taepodong-2, which was believed to be capable of reaching Alaska or Hawaii, but which quickly crashed into the Sea of Japan.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Tokyo had the right to carry out a preemptive attack in the face of a serious threat despite its pacifist post-World War II Constitution.

"It is impossible for us to do nothing until we are attacked by a country which says it has nuclear weapons and could fire missiles against Japan," Aso, an outspoken hawk, told NHK public television.

Aso stood firm on the UN resolution. The Security Council, where Japan has tried in vain to win the same veto power as sanctions opponents China and Russia, will decide later today when to vote on the draft.

"If we give in to just one veto power, then we will end up sending the wrong message to the international community," Aso said.

South Korea criticized Tokyo yesterday for its "shrill voice."

"There is nothing good in heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula and worsening inter-Korean relations. This will not help at all to settle the nuclear issue or the missile issue," said a statement from the office of President Roh Moo-Hyun's spokesman.

Meanwhile, Christopher Hill, the US delegate to the six-party nuclear negotiations, said he was ready to meet one-on-one with the North if it returns to the six-nation talks.

He insisted that all nations were speaking with "one voice" on North Korea.

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