North Korea must be pressured so it "has no other choice" than to stop missile tests and return to nuclear talks, Japan's top government spokesman said yesterday.
"North Korea must be made to understand that if it does not alter its stance, there will be bad consequences," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said at a privately sponsored speech in Tokyo.
"We must create a situation that North Korea has no other choice than to take some big decisions," Abe said, and called for the reclusive regime to return to a self-imposed moratorium on missile launches and return to the six-nation talks on its nuclear ambitions.
Japan immediately slapped limited economic sanctions on the North following its missile tests earlier this month, and Abe has suggested Tokyo may impose more.
Pyongyang test fired seven missiles on July 5, its actions drawing widespread condemnation, and prompting the UN Security Council to pass a resolution barring member states from missile-related dealings with the North.
Japan, a non-permanent member of the council, had demanded the resolution be backed by the threat of military force. It later conceded in the face of a threatened Chinese veto amid accusations from Beijing and Seoul that Japan was overreacting.
Still, Abe said the Security Council's adoption of a resolution, and not a weaker chairman's statement, was a triumph for Japanese diplomacy.
"For perhaps the first time in the UN's 60-year history, Japan led the debate at the Security Council," Abe said. "When Japan's national interest is on the line, we must take the initiative ... It was a triumph for Japanese diplomacy."
Abe added Japan was open to informal six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions at next week's ASEAN Regional Forum in Malaysia.
On Wednesday South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, Chun Yung-woo, said discussions were under way to convene a meeting of foreign ministers from the six countries on the sidelines of the forum, according to Yonhap news agency.
Meanwhile, Japan plans to launch a spy satellite in September aimed at helping it keep an eye on North Korea.
The information-gathering satellite will be Japan's third, after the successful launch of a pair of satellites in March 2003.