Okada, Hague talk Afghanistan, North, nukes

by Masami Ito

The United Kingdom and Japan will jointly confront international issues pertaining to Afghanistan, North Korean and nuclear nonproliferation, visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague agreed with his Tokyo counterpart, Katsuya Okada, on Thursday.

“Japan and the United Kingdom share basic values,” Okada said during a joint news conference after the bilateral meeting in Tokyo. “We agreed to strengthen bilateral ties and deepen cooperation on international affairs.”

Hague strongly condemned North Korea over the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan and expressed dissatisfaction over the recent U.N. statement that avoided directly blaming Pyongyang over the incident.

Hague said the U.K. would have preferred a stronger statement making even clearer the condemnation of the world for what he termed the appalling and indefensible actions of North Korea.

“It is very important that it is understood in North Korea that there will never be any reward for such provocative acts,” he said.

During his first trip to Japan after assuming the role of foreign secretary in May, Hague told Okada that he strongly supported Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

The two ministers also agreed to launch talks on drawing up a joint statement listing issues to be prioritized, including economic prosperity and security.

On Afghanistan, Hague said Britain will not withdraw its 10,000 soldiers deployed there until Kabul is able to govern itself independently and improve its own economy.

“Our objective in Afghanistan is to safeguard our own national security and that of our allies by helping Afghans to be able to take care of their own stability and security without presenting a danger to the rest of the world,” Hague said. “That is the point we want to reach before withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan.”

Hague also praised Japan’s contribution of up to $5 billion over a five-year period from 2009.