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Japan and the U.S. agreed Friday that they and South Korea should consult closely with each other in dealing with the standoff over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons if and when the United Nations Security Council takes it up.

In a meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton agreed on the need to resolve the crisis peacefully through diplomatic measures, ministry officials said.

The meeting took place in the wake of Bolton’s remark Wednesday in Seoul that the International Atomic Energy Agency may refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council for consideration as early as this weekend.

The IAEA, however, said it would not meet this week to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear situation.

“It remains our view that we should have a meeting of the board of governors of the IAEA,” Bolton told a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo after the meeting.

“Perhaps we didn’t make the objective of having the board meeting today, but it remains our objective to have a meeting,” he said. “I remain optimistic that the meeting will occur in the very near future.”

Bolton, Washington’s point man on arms control and international security, hinted during his meeting with Kawaguchi at U.S. reluctance to impose economic sanctions on Pyongyang, noting that reporting to the Security Council and imposing sanctions are “separate matters,” the officials quoted him as saying.

Kawaguchi said the nuclear issue should be “calmly and carefully” dealt with in the event the Security Council decides to hold discussions.

“(Whether to impose economic) sanctions should be deliberated carefully,” Kawaguchi was quoted as saying, reflecting Japan’s reluctance to step up pressure on North Korea.

The two sides agreed it is important for the international community to continue to send a message of “grave concern” to the Stalinist state.

The meeting was initially scheduled for Thursday but rearranged for Friday after Bolton reportedly complained of poor health. He is scheduled to leave Japan on Saturday.

No nukes for Japan

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Shizuka Kamei, a senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, scoffed Thursday at speculation that Japan may seek its own atomic arsenal in response to North Korea’s nuclear arms programs.

With North Korea admitting it has a uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons and restarting operations of facilities believed to be capable of developing plutonium-based nuclear weapons, there has been growing talk in the U.S. about the possibility of Japan arming itself with nuclear weapons.

“We should never repeat what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” said Kamei, a former LDP policy chief.

He made the remarks during a question-and-answer session following a speech at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Kamei is on a weeklong tour of the United States.

Asked about the possibility of Japan building a nuclear arsenal, Kamei said, “I believe firmly that Japan should not possess nuclear weapons.

“There are virtually no Japanese, regardless of whether they are politicians or not, who support that idea,” he said. “There are some countries in the world that already possess nuclear weapons, but no country should use such weapons.”

Kamei, known as a conservative heavyweight in the LDP, is a House of Representatives member from a district in Hiroshima Prefecture. Members of his family survived the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

“I still remember vividly a mushroom cloud ballooning over the mountain. A few days later, I saw people fleeing Hiroshima, crawling on the ground in ragged clothing,” he said.

Tokyo knew NPT plan

North Korea notified Japan in advance about its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, government sources said Friday.

According to the sources, North Korea told Japan in a telephone communication about its intention to pull out of the NPT immediately before it announced its decision Jan. 10.

Although Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties and the governments of the two countries usually communicate through their embassies in Beijing, they also have direct telephone links, the sources said.

In the message, North Korea told the Japanese government that while there is no change in its intention of trying to establish diplomatic ties with Japan through the implementation of the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration, Japan and North Korea are not in an environment where it would be possible to resume negotiations on the establishment of ties, the sources said.

One of the sources said North Korea appears to have only given the advance notice to Japan and not to China, Russia or South Korea.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi declined to comment on the matter during a news conference, but said, “We are coordinating closely with various countries including North Korea to solve North Korean issues.”

On Jan. 10, North Korea declared its immediate withdrawal from the NPT and the ending of its nuclear safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency “to protect the sovereignty of the country and the nation.”

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