TRICK PLAY SUSPECTED

Don’t sanction Pyongyang yet: U.S.

Kyodo

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on Monday urged Japan to avoid slapping economic sanctions on North Korea at this time, because Pyongyang could use such a move as a tool to “outmaneuver” its adversaries, according to a visiting state minister.

Washington, which has repeatedly expressed its support for Tokyo’s efforts to settle the abduction issue, is apparently worried that unilateral Japanese action could harden Pyongyang’s response for an early resumption of the stalled six-nation talks on the North’s nuclear threat.

After her talks with senior U.S. officials, Yuriko Koike, state minister in charge of affairs pertaining to Okinawa and the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, also said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld showed “great interest” over the Japan-Russia territorial dispute.

He offered to take up the issue “strategically” in talks with Russia, according to Koike.

Koike, who is also the environment minister, stopped over in Washington on her way to Buenos Aires for the Dec. 15-17 10th Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.