Clinton: Sinking also threat to Japan

by Masami Ito

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday in Tokyo that North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean warship posed a threat to Japan and agreed with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to keep in close contact over the provocation.

During their joint news conference, Clinton clearly stated that Pyongyang was responsible for the sinking of the corvette Cheonan and added “the United States strongly condemns this action of aggression.”

“The United States and Japan continue to work side by side to meet the challenge posed by North Korea,” Clinton said. “We agree that North Korea must stop its provocative behavior, halt its policy of threats and belligerence toward its neighbors and take irreversible steps to fulfill its denuclearization commitments and comply with international law.”

Clinton’s visit came just a day after South Korea revealed the conclusion of an international probe into the warship’s sinking that blamed North Korea. This declaration immediately prompted Pyongyang to state a denial and vow “tough measures, including all-out war,” if any sanctions are imposed over the deadly incident.

Okada meanwhile stressed the importance of the bilateral security framework, especially amid the tension on the Korean Peninsula.

“The importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance is increasing amid the unstable and insecure situation in East Asia, with incidents like the sinking of the South Korean warship,” he said.

His comments came amid the bilateral friction over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Okada and Clinton stressed that the alliance is unwavering and they are currently working hard to resolve the base relocation issue by the end of May, the self-imposed deadline by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

“We both seek an arrangement that is operationally viable and politically sustainable,” Clinton said. “The goal of our governments (remains) unchanged — we want to maintain the security of Japan and the stability of the region. . . . We are committed to redoubling our efforts to meet the deadline that has been announced by the Japanese government and we look forward to a resolution of this matter.”

Clinton visited Tokyo only for a few hours Friday afternoon, kicking off an Asia tour that will take her next to China and then to South Korea, where she plans to discuss the torpedoing of the Cheonan.

She and Okada also said Iran’s nuclear ambitions continued to be of concern despite the recent deal reached with Turkey and Brazil in which Tehran agreed to send 1,100 kg of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey.

“We both agreed that the situation was still of concern, with Iran (saying it will) continue to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity,” Okada said. “I said that our country would play a proactive role in the discussions for a new U.N. Security Council resolution so that the international society can firmly send out a unified message.”

The U.S. submitted a draft resolution to the Security Council earlier this week to impose further sanctions against Iran, which has repeatedly claimed its uranium enrichment program is only for peaceful purposes, not for pursuit of atomic weapons.

Henoko gives nod

NAHA , Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) A local decision-making body in the Henoko district of Okinawa, eyed under a Japan-U.S. accord as the site for the relocation of a U.S. military base also in the prefecture, decided Friday to conditionally accept hosting the replacement facility.

The Henoko administrative committee adopted a resolution saying the district would accept a plan under the accord to fill in shallows to build runways, if the site for the runways is moved farther offshore to reduce noise and if Tokyo increases economic incentives for the area, committee members said.