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US, Japan agree to set up official talks on nuclear deterrence

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) July 18, 2009
The United States on Saturday agreed with Japan to set up an official talks on ways to boost the nuclear deterrence it provides to protect Tokyo as tensions continue with North Korea, a senior official said.

The US delegation -- led by Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Wallace Gregson, assistant secretary of defence -- discussed with their Japanese counterparts the situation in North Korea and the Japan-US security alliance, they said in statements.

"Today the US and the Japanese side agreed to set up a special working group that would meet in Washington over the course of several weeks, that would be the first meeting to begin a deep discussion about the elements of nuclear deterrence," Campbell said after the meeting.

"Our goal here is to make a very strong commitment to Japan about the fact that the nuclear deterrence of the United States are extended, the nuclear umbrella remains strong and stable, and our commitment to Japan is absolutely unshakable," he said in an interview with Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

Conservative Japanese politicians have argued that Tokyo should arm itself with nuclear weapons to protect itself against Pyongyang's nuclear threat.

The idea of Japan going nuclear would "not lead to Japan's national interest or the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region," Campbell said in an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper issued in Japanese on Saturday.

He said he hoped to discuss the possibility of the collapse of the North Korean regime amid its leader Kim Jong-Il's ailing health, NHK said.

"I would just underscore that the United States, Japan, (and) other nations have to be prepared for a variety of scenarios on the Korean peninsula," he told a television footage.

"We are watching developments as they unfold in North Korea vary carefully," he said.

The issue of a so-called "nuclear umbrella" -- when a nuclear power pledges to defend an ally that is not armed with atomic weapons -- is sensitive in Japan, the only country to have suffered an atomic attack.

Washington and Tokyo have long shied from openly discussing the issue.

Japan campaigns for a world free of nuclear weapons but relies on the United States for deterrence as fears mount over North Korea's atomic programme and China's continued stockpiling.

Campbell arrived in Japan on Thursday for talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and other high-level officials, in his first visit here after being appointed to the senior position under President Barack Obama.

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