Tokyo (AFP) Nov 13, 2006
A Russian envoy on Monday warned Japan against developing nuclear weapons, saying it would set off a nuclear arms race and cause "huge damage" to regional stability. Top Japanese lawmakers have called for Japan to debate the long-time taboo on developing nuclear weapons in the wake of North Korea's test of an atom bomb last month.
"If Japan, which has contributed a great deal to the international community, heads the way of developing nuclear weapons, it would be of huge damage to the stability of the international community," said Alexander Losyukov, the Russian ambassador to Japan.
"If such a situation occurs, it would provoke the arms race. Other countries in the vicinity of Japan, especially Russia and China, would have to respond to it," he said at a news conference.
"Responding to such an action would be inevitable from the viewpoint of strategic parity," he said.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Shoichi Nakagawa, a top policy adviser, have called for a frank debate on nuclear weapons -- anathema to many people in the only nation to have been attacked with atomic bombs.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly ruled out even debating the nuclear option. But Abe, who wants officially pacifist Japan to expand its military role, has refused opposition demands that he fire aides who support debate on nuclear weapons.
"I want Japanese leaders to take responsible action on this matter. At this point, the prime minister is behaving sensibly, though," Losyukov said.
The United States has ensured Japan's security since the end of World War II, when the country was stripped of the right to maintain its own military.
US leaders have said that Japan has no need for nuclear weapons but that Washington will not seek to stop discussion of the issue.
earlier related report
North Korea agreed to return to six-nation disarmament talks three weeks after its shock nuclear test. The Russian ambassador to Japan, Alexander Losyukov, said diplomats had proposed the start of next month for the discussions.
"According to the exchanges of diplomatic documents, there is a possibility that it will be held in early December," Losyukov told reporters in Tokyo.
The leaders of the five nations negotiating with North Korea -- China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States -- are expected to discuss the resumption of six-way talks when they meet this weekend for a summit in Hanoi.
The United States and Japan have supported a tough line against the North after its nuclear test, while the other three countries have favored offering the regime more incentives.
North Korea had stayed away from talks since November last year to protest US financial sanctions against a bank accused of laundering and counterfeiting money for the regime.
Losyukov, who is a former negotiator in the six-party talks, said that the dialogue had "drastically changed" since its inception in 2003.
"North Korea once said it was a peaceful nation and that it would not go nuclear. Now it has declared the possession of nuclear weapons and its determination to protect itself with them," he said.
Losyukov said the best way to solve the stalemate is "to assure North Korea that its sovereignty will be inviolable."
"The strategy of threatening North Korea by saying 'we will force you to abandon nuclear ambitions unless you voluntarily give them up' -- I don't think it works," he said.
President George W. Bush famously branded North Korea as part of an "axis of evil." He has refused bilateral talks with the regime -- an option favored by some in the rival Democratic Party, which swept US congressional elections last week.
The International Crisis Group in a report published Monday urged the Bush administration to talk one-on-one with Kim Jong-Il's regime.
"The Bush administration has operated under the flawed assumption that direct negotiations with its foe are a concession, when this may be the only way of moving forward," the Brussels-based think tank said.
But Thomas Schieffer, the US ambassador to Japan, warned North Korea not to gloat over Bush's electoral rebuke. A pro-Pyongyang newspaper published in Japan last week praised "wise" US voters.
"I hope that the North Koreans don't misinterpret these elections and think that they have greater leverage now," Schieffer, a close friend of Bush, told a business conference in Tokyo.
"Will it affect North Korea? No," he said.
He said the two major US parties both shared a commitment to defend Japan, which has been under the US security umbrella since its World War II defeat.
Japan is particularly sensitive to North Korea, which fired a missile over Japan's main island in 1998.
Japan called for a strong statement to North Korea by this weekend's 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hanoi.
"It is important to send a united and strong message of international consensus," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki.
Six-way talks are hosted by China, Pyongyang's closest ally.
South Korea has been caught in the middle, as its government supports a "sunshine" policy of engaging its neighbor.
Seoul confirmed Monday it would not join the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative drills to curb shipments of weapons of mass destruction for fear of sparking naval clashes.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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South Korea Goes Its Own Way On North Korean Sanctions
Seoul (AFP) Nov 13, 2006
South Korea confirmed Monday it would not join a US-led initiative to inspect cargo to and from nuclear-armed North Korea for fear of sparking naval clashes, despite US pressure to take part. It also announced it would not take any new steps to enforce UN sanctions imposed on the North following its October 9 nuclear test, saying it already had stronger measures in place than any other country.
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