Clinton Calls N. Korea Nuclear Ambitions ‘Disruptive’

TOKYO ~ US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Japanese leaders this week that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are “disruptive” and any missile launch by Pyongyang would be unhelpful or even provocative.

Reassuring her hosts that the US-Japanese alliance remained the cornerstone of regional security, Clinton also handed Prime Minister Taro Aso an invitation to visit the White House next week – before other foreign leaders.

Aso accepted, officials said.

On the first full day of her Asian tour, Clinton said the United States would press North Korea to come clean on its weapons-grade nuclear program and on abducted Japanese citizens.

“Let me underscore the commitment the United States has to the denuclearization of North Korea and to the prevention of further proliferation,” she told a news conference with Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone on Tuesday.

Under a 2007 deal with the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, North Korea agreed to end its nuclear programmes in exchange for energy aid.

But progress in the six-party talks stalled late last year when North Korea, which tested an atomic bomb in 2006, baulked at demands for inspections and other steps to verify disarmament.

A senior State Department official, summarizing Clinton’s meeting with Nakasone, said “the North’s nuclear ambitions are disruptive to peace and there’s a full commitment to the alliance under President (Barack) Obama.”

The US official, who asked not to be named, said Clinton told her Japanese counterpart that a missile launch would be “provocative” under certain circumstances.

Nakasone replied that the allies needed to respond “strictly” to intimidation from the North, the US official said.

In public, Clinton has only that such a launch “would be very unhelpful in moving our relationship forward.”

The isolated Stalinist country on Monday fuelled speculation that it is preparing to test a long-range missile, signaling that it will go ahead with a rocket launch as part of a “space development” program.

Pyongyang has previously tested missiles under the guise of launching a satellite.

In her press conference with Nakasone, Clinton renewed her earlier offer of normal relations and a full peace treaty if North Korea “verifiably and completely eliminates its nuclear program.”

The 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended only with an armistice.

Touching on one of the most emotive issues for Japan, Clinton said she would press Pyongyang to account for the fate of Japanese citizens kidnapped to train North Korean spies in language skills.

She met some of their relatives in a bid to show how seriously she takes the issue.

She was given a letter from the families who urged the Obama administration to “seriously consider re-listing North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism” as it reviews policy toward Pyongyang.

Japan has refused to provide aid to North Korea under the denuclearization deal until it provides answers about the abductions.

Clinton also said Obama would meet Prime Minister Aso in Washington on February 24.

Aso told Clinton, according to Jiji Press, that “the two countries have a big responsibility over the international economy and global finance. I would like to discuss that.”

Nakasone, speaking on the economic crisis at the joint press conference, said the Aso-Obama meeting “is a great chance for the world’s biggest and second biggest economies to jointly tackle the issue.”

Clinton also held talks with Ichiro Ozawa, head of the nation’s biggest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, who is leading opinion polls against Aso ahead of this year’s general elections.

Ozawa later told reporters the two agreed on the importance of the current US-Japan bilateral alliance but he insisted that Tokyo and Washington must seek “equal partnership” without either side acting unilaterally.

Ozawa, at the media briefing, also mentioned uncertainty about China and said: “Whether China can manage a soft landing on democratisation is the biggest issue for the world, Japan and the United States.”

“Secretary Clinton … told us that it’s a very important insight. The triangle of the United States, Japan and China is a very important relation,” Ozawa said.

Analysts said Clinton chose to visit Japan first – before Indonesia, South Korea and China – to ease Japanese concerns that the United States now saw China as the key power in Asia.

Filed under: Our World

Comments are closed.