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. US calls for swift sanctions, warns North Korea against attack
TOKYO, Oct 19 (AFP) Oct 18, 2006
The United States warned North Korea Wednesday that it would respond with the full range of its military might to any attack on its allies as it called for the swift implementation of UN sanctions.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued the warning in Tokyo on the first stop of a regional tour triggered by the crisis over Pyongyang's first atom bomb test last week and amid fears the North might carry out a second test.

"The role of the United States is to make certain that everybody, including the North Koreans, know very well that the United States will fully recognise and act upon its obligations under its mutual defense treaty" with Japan, Rice said.

"The United States has the will and the capability to meet the full range, and I underscore the full range, of its deterrence and security commitment to Japan," she said after talks with her Japanese counterpart Taro Aso.

Rice said the United States and Japan, which has taken a tough line on North Korea, wanted all nations to comply with a UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on the impoverished North.

"The foreign minister and I pledged we will work together and with other states for the swift implementation and the effective implementation of all of the measures" under the resolution, Rice said.

The UN resolution bans trade with North Korea related to its development of nuclear arms, ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.

It also imposes financial controls to starve the North Korean military of funds.

The most controversial measure calls for the inspection of all cargo to and from the impoverished state, aimed at preventing its cash-strapped government from selling material for an atomic bomb or other illicit weapons to terrorists or rogue states.

North Korea on Tuesday slammed the sanctions resolution as a "declaration of war" and vowed to inflict "merciless blows without hesitation" on any countries enforcing them.

Such bellicose rhetoric has prompted calls in Japan for debate on the long-taboo option of developing its own nuclear weapons since North Korea tested its first atom bomb, triggering fears of a regional arms race.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ruled out acquiring atomic weapons in Japan, the only nation to have suffered nuclear attack. But others in his ruling party have said the option should be at least discussed.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned Wednesday that more countries were likely to go nuclear unless the international community acts with greater cohesiveness than it has done to stop North Korea and Iran.

"There is at least a reasonable likelihood that some other countries will decide that they need to have nuclear weapons," he said Wednesday in a speech to a military audience at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

"And ... in a relatively short period you could have two, four, six other countries decide that," he said.

South Korean and Japanese officials Tuesday cited information of possible preparations for another test, triggering a plea for restraint from China, but arms experts say North Korea may want to go ahead and prove itself.

US officials say the October 9 test produced an unusually low yield of less than a kiloton, indicating it was at least a partial failure.

A new test could be imminent simply "because the first one failed," argued Joseph Bermudez, a researcher at Jane's Defence Weekly in Britain.

Rice is leading a diplomatic drive to contain North Korea through inspections of cargo on ships serving its ports, part of the raft of UN sanctions.

Her plan would involve inspection or monitoring of cargo leaving or entering North Korea by sea, land and air, US officials said.

China, the North's closest ally and biggest trading partner, is viewed as pivotal to the effort.

Rice heads to China later in the week in a tour that is also taking her to South Korea and Russia. The countries are all part of six-nation negotiations that broke down nearly a year ago on ending North Korea's nuclear program.

The top US diplomat heads Thursday to Seoul, where the US ambassador said she would ask South Korea to join an informal US-led coalition known as the Proliferation Security Initiative to inspect North Korean ships for illicit weapons material.

South Korea is only a PSI observer and has so far refused to become a full participant for fear of naval clashes with its neighbour. Several sailors were killed and ships sunk in clashes in disputed waters in 1999 and 2002.

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