Japan Considers Attacking North Korea Missiles
Japan wants the power to launch a pre-emptive strike against weapons bases in North Korea, political leaders in Tokyo said yesterday, even as the United States argued that diplomacy could defuse the threat from Pyongyang. Among those pushing to "deepen the discussion" on pre-emptive strikes was the man most likely to become prime minister in September, Shinzo Abe, one of Japan's most popular politicians. "There is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defence. We need to deepen the discussion," said Mr Abe, who, as the Chief Cabinet Secretary, is the main Government spokesman. Also making the case for pre-emptive strikes was the Director-General of Defence, Fukushiro Nukaga, who said that Japan should be able to launch an attack if an enemy "puts a finger on the trigger of a gun". Foreign Minister Taro Aso said that if missiles targeted Japan, "we do not have an option of doing nothing until we suffer damage".Meanwhile, China sent a delegation to Pyongyang that was led by Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu and included Beijing's top nuclear negotiator. South Korea, which says it now wants to add defensive long-range cruise missiles to its arsenal, was hopeful that three days of scheduled talks on economic co-operation with the North, due to start today, would go ahead. In telephone talks yesterday between Mr Aso and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the pair said there needed to be a "resolute message on North Korea's missile launches", according to officials. The chief US nuclear negotiator, Christopher Hill, in Tokyo after making urgent visits to Beijing and Seoul, argued for a unified diplomatic effort. "We want to make it very clear that we are all â€¦ speaking with one voice on this provocative action by the North Koreans to launch missiles of all shapes and sizes," Mr Hill said. Yesterday Japan backed off its plan to push for a vote on sanctions at the United Nations. The resolution is opposed by China and Russia, which both have veto power. "The Vice-Minister of China is going to North Korea to persuade them. Under such circumstances, there is no need to insist on a vote," Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said.The resolution, drafted by Japan, calls on Pyongyang to "cease the development, testing, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles" and to recommit to a moratorium on launches. It also calls on Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks without conditions and cease all "nuclear-related activities". The talks, hosted by China, involve the US, Russia, Japan and South and North Korea, but they have been stalled for eight months. Japan also stepped up its lobbying of Russia over the contents of a statement from the G8 ahead of a meeting on July 15 in St Petersburg, said Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka. Washington's Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, said it would take time for the diplomatic coalition created to deal with North Korea to be effective. "Diplomacy can't be measured in a snapshot," Mr Burns said. "We have not given up on this quest to end these negotiations with North Korea back into a place where they can no longer be a threat to their neighbours or to the United States."