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US Will Use Full Range Of Military Might In Defense Of Japan Against North Korea

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (L) shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso at the Foreign Ministry's Iikura guesthouse in Tokyo, 18 October 2006. Photo courtesy of Issei KATO and AFP.
by David Millikin
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 18, 2006
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a stark warning to North Korea Wednesday that Washington would respond with the "full range" of its military might to any attack on its Japanese or South Korean allies. Following talks with Rice here, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso for his part insisted his government would not develop nuclear weapons in response to the threat from North Korea -- a prospect which has rattled other nations in the region.

"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 during the first stop of a regional tour. "The United Staes 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.

In addition to reaffirming US security commitments, Rice said her four-nation tour was aimed at shoring up support for wide-ranging sanctions imposed on North Korea by the UN Security Council last week after Pyongyang carried out its first nuclear text explosion.

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 UN sanctions resolution as a "declaration of war" and vowed to inflict "merciless blows without hesitation" on any countries enforcing the sanctions.

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-ever atom bomb.

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

Just hours before Rice arrived in Tokyo, Foreign Minister Aso came out in favor of debating the issue, saying it is "important to hold various discussions, when a neighboring country has" nuclear weapons.

The United States is strongly opposed to nuclear proliferation and has mutual defense treaties with both Japan and South Korea which essentially provide a "nuclear umbrella" for the two allies in case they are attacked.

Nearly 40,000 US troops are stationed in Japan under a security alliance reached after the country was defeated in World War II and forced to renounce war.

Following an hour-long meeting with Rice at the foreign ministry's Ikura House, Aso insisted that "there is no need for Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons as we have the security commitment of the United States.

"Secretary Rice told me that, under the Japan-US security treaty, the US commitment to defend Japan is maintained under all circumstances," he said.

Rice will leave Japan on Thursday for South Korea and then travel on to China and Russia -- the four nations which joined Washington in now stalled negotiations to disarm North Korea in exchange for economic and political rewards.

Aso pledged during his meeting with Rice to cooperate fully in implementing the sanctions called for under UN Security Council resolution 1718.

Japan has already imposed a blanket ban on bilateral trade with North Korea, but its anti-war constitution restricts how it could participate in military operations aimed at preventing North Korean shipments of illicit weapons.

Rice and Aso said further discussions among experts from both countries would take place later Wednesday on just what role Japan could play in the search and seizure operations.

earlier related report
US Calls For Swift Sanctions, Warns North Korea Against Attack Tokyo (AFP) Oct 19 - 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.

earlier related report
Senior Chinese official visits North Korea: US
Washington (AFP) Oct 18 - The United States said Wednesday that a senior Chinese official was visiting North Korea amid a flurry of diplomacy and fears Pyongyang may conduct another nuclear test.

The United States and China have both warned North Korea against exploding another atom bomb while US media reported suspicious movement at a test site.

The US government was notified in advance of the trip and confirmed Japanese news reports of the high-level mission.

Beijing, North Korea's strongest ally, has been tight-lipped.

Questioned during a news briefing about the reported presence of Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan in North Korea, Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, replied: "I do understand that he is, as you say, either in the process of going, or perhaps there already. I'd certainly leave it up to the Chinese government to report back on his meetings."

The senior Chinese diplomat, who held talks with US President George W. Bush in Washington last week, is believed to be in the communist state, Jiji Press and Kyodo News said Wednesday, quoting unnamed sources in Beijing.

"My understanding is that his trip would be part of Chinese efforts to convince the North Koreans to comply with (UN) Resolution 1718, as well as the other relevant Security Council measures that are out there," Casey added.

A US official who spoke privately added: "The Chinese have told us he was going. ... I am pretty sure that he is scheduled to have meetings in the North on Thursday."

Earlier, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said: "We have no information on that currently."

China is the top political ally and trading partner of North Korea and is believed to have the most leverage over the reclusive communist state.

UN Resolution 1718, unanimously approved Saturday by the Security Council, calls on North Korea to return to negotiations about its nuclear program and imposes sanctions on the impoverished state.

Although China supported the resolution, which slapped tough sanctions on North Korea, it has shown mixed feelings about a key measure for countries to search North Korean cargo ships.

The Chinese diplomatic venture comes as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice started Wednesday a tour of Northeast Asia, including a stop in China later this week, to push for swift implementation of UN sanctions following Pyongyang's first atom bomb test October 8.

Hiroshi Hiyama in Tokyo Contributed to this report

Source: Agence France-Presse

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