The government, outraged by North Korea’s launch Monday of a ballistic missile over Japanese territory, announced a major policy shift toward Pyongyang on Tuesday, suspending food aid and assistance for light-water nuclear reactor projects as well as its offer to resume normalization talks with North Korea.
The decision came in an afternoon meeting between Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and other key Cabinet members — including Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura and Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga.
North Korea on Monday test-fired a newly developed missile capable of striking anywhere in Japan. It is believed to have passed over Japan before landing in the open seas off the Sanriku coast of northeastern Japan. Denouncing Pyongyang’s action, the government called for a review of Japan’s overall policy to take a firm stance against North Korea.
It also underlined the importance of reinforcing cooperation with Japan’s two major allies, the United States and South Korea, in dealing with North Korea. Specifically, Japan will promote senior-level talks with the U.S. to exchange views and information about North Korea. The new policy calls for similar exchanges with South Korea, pointing to a planned meeting Thursday between Komura and his South Korean counterpart, Hong Soon Yung.
Komura met with South Korean defense chief Cheon Yong Taek earlier Tuesday.
Japan will also push for a high-level meeting among the three nations as soon as possible in addition to a trilateral ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session slated for late September in New York. Japan will also make efforts to have the missile launch taken up at the U.N. General Assembly meeting and by the U.N. Security Council.
In the meantime, Japan will take every possible opportunity to express its regret and protest against North Korea, making continuous efforts to seek explanation from the nation. It will also urge Pyongyang to stop developing and exporting missiles.
Shifting from its earlier stance of unconditional support for negotiations toward normalizing diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, Japan will suspend such efforts for the time being under the new policy.
It will also suspend its food assistance to the starvation-stricken country.
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