Campbell: Pyongyang still welcome at talks

by Jun Hongo

Although North Korea will face sanctions for its provocative acts, it is not too late for Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said Friday.

Campbell, making his first regional tour after assuming his post last month, met with Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and senior officials in Tokyo.

“Down this path lies higher tensions and much greater challenges,” he told reporters regarding North Korea’s defiant acts, adding that the United States will work with allies including Japan to implement appropriate sanctions against the reclusive state.

Although the North will face sanctions by the international community, Campbell also said the door remains open to the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the hermit state.

“We still wish them to return to the six-party talks and responsible negotiations. That is our position,” Campbell said.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Campbell spoke with senior officials and agreed that U.N. members must carry out actions called for in Security Council Resolution 1874, which was adopted in response to the North’s nuclear test in May.

Tokyo and Washington also agreed to work closely to resolve humanitarian issues, including the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents in the 1970s and ’80s, the ministry said.

North nuke warhead

The Associated Press

North Korea is an increasing threat to regional security and may be capable of building a nuclear device small enough for a missile warhead sooner than expected, the Defense Ministry said in an annual report released Friday.

The report cites North Korea as Japan’s chief security concern, but also notes other nations in Asia — particularly China — are improving their military capabilities.

Worries over North Korea have “grown more serious” since it conducted a nuclear test in May.

“It is difficult to rule out the possibility that North Korea could achieve miniaturization of nuclear weapons and development of nuclear warheads in a relatively short time,” the report says, adding that the North is likely importing missile-related materials and technologies.

“Developments in North Korea, including the possible impact of the health issues of Kim Jong Il and the question of succession, need to be closely monitored,” the report says.

Since 1994, Kim has ruled the impoverished hermit nation with absolute authority. But he reportedly suffered a stroke last August, leading to speculation that chaos could result if he fails to name a successor. Kim has reportedly picked his third son, Jong Un, as his successor, but questions remain about how the transition will proceed.

The report also says China’s military buildup is also a major concern to Tokyo. It says the Chinese Navy is reinforcing its submarines and surface warships with upgraded air defense and antiship missile capabilities.

China has also intensified maritime activities near Japan and appears to be seeking an aircraft carrier.