U.S. confirms that Koizumi knew of Pyongyang nukes


U.S. President George W. Bush provided Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi with information about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program before Koizumi met North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in September, a senior U.S. administration official confirmed Monday.

“(Bush) asked the prime minister to raise, in the strongest terms, Japan’s expectation that North Korea will remain nonnuclear, but he asked that the prime minister not be too specific yet at this point,” the U.S. official told reporters. “Prime Minister Koizumi did exactly that. He was very firm with Kim Jong Il and did exactly what the president wanted.”

Japan’s opposition parties attacked Koizumi in the Diet on Monday for signing the Pyongyang Declaration in the Sept. 17 Japan-North Korean summit. The declaration called for stalled bilateral normalization talks to resume, despite the U.S. having notified Japan of the North Korean nuclear program.

Koizumi said in response that he had withheld the information due to considerations about Japan’s relations with the U.S. and other countries.

The U.S. government revealed last week that North Korea told the United States earlier this month that it has a secret program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

The U.S. official welcomed Japan’s policy of dealing with the nuclear weapons issue, along with the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea, as a high priority during talks with Pyongyang to normalize bilateral ties.