Japan may abandon a bilateral declaration signed in September with North Korea if Pyongyang continues its provocative missile tests and nuclear program, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Wednesday.
Under the Pyongyang Declaration, which set a goal of normalizing bilateral relations, North Korea promised to comply with all international agreements on nuclear and missile issues, in addition to maintaining a moratorium on missile launches beyond the previously pledged date of 2003.
When asked whether Japan might abandon the declaration, Fukuda told a regular morning news conference, “Yes, that’s right. It depends on how (North Korea) acts.”
The declaration was signed when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi held a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.
Appearing before the House of Councilors Budget Committee on Tuesday, Fukuda said the government would judge whether to abandon the declaration “after viewing the overall situation.”
He also acknowledged, however, that Pyongyang’s recent conduct has effectively breached the spirit of the agreement.
In an escalation of brinkmanship, North Korea launched antiship missiles twice into the Sea of Japan in the last month, reactivated a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and declared its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Fukuda indicated that the launch of a ballistic missile whose range encompasses Japan and the reactivation of a nuclear reprocessing plant capable of extracting plutonium from spent fuel would constitute the red line for abandoning the declaration.
“At present, (North Korea) has not crossed this line,” Fukuda said. “But further developments — moves that would be a direct threat to Japan’s security — should be considered a danger.”
The government has played down the test-firing of antiship missiles, stating that short-range missiles of this kind do not directly threaten Japan’s security. Tokyo has said that the “missiles” to which the declaration refers are long-range ballistic missiles that could reach Japan.
Fukuda’s remarks, however, constitute a warning to Pyongyang that any further maneuvers in this direction would further delay normalization efforts.
Koizumi was meanwhile more hesitant on the future of the Pyongyang declaration.
“I believe both Japan and North Korea should try to stick with (the declaration),” he told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
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