• Kyodo

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Japan and the United States in 1994 almost held a “prior consultation” under the bilateral security treaty to discuss an attack on North Korea as tensions mounted over Pyongyang’s suspected nuclear arms program, according to Japanese and former U.S. officials.

In June that year, President Bill Clinton’s administration was considering a military buildup in the region, including the deployment of more ground troops and fighter jets, due to the heightened tensions.

In response to the U.S. move, Japan began preparing for a prior consultation “on the assumption that U.S. forces in Japan might be involved in combat operations” on the Korean Peninsula, a Japanese official familiar with the matter said.

At the time, Japan was due to hold talks with the U.S. ambassador to Japan, another senior Japanese official said.

Former Clinton administration officials — Winston Lord, who served as assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, and Ashton Carter, who was assistant defense secretary for international security policy — confirmed the two countries were preparing for a prior consultation session.

The consultation never took place as tensions eased after Jimmy Carter visited Pyongyang as a special envoy.

Carter’s visit paved the way for a 1994 U.S.-North Korean accord known as the Agreed Framework. The pact required North Korea to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear facilities in exchange for the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors for electricity generation and an interim supply of oil.

Under notes exchanged when the security treaty was revised in 1960, the U.S. needs to gain prior consent from Japan through consultations for “the use of facilities and areas in Japan as bases for military combat operations to be undertaken from Japan.”

But declassified U.S. government documents show there was a “secret deal” between the two countries excluding such an attack from being subject to prior consultation.

While confirming there was such a deal, a former State Department official said the U.S. decided to change the policy, making an attack on North Korea by U.S. forces in Japan subject to prior consultation, following a 1969 summit between Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and President Richard Nixon.

At the summit, where the U.S. agreed to return Okinawa to Japan, Sato told Nixon that Japan will make a positive and quick response if the U.S. seeks prior consultation on a possible attack on North Korea by U.S. forces, according to the official.

Abduction charges

KOBE (Kyodo) A group working on behalf of Japanese allegedly spirited away by North Korea filed a criminal complaint Tuesday against a suspected former North Korean agent who allegedly played a role in the abduction of a Kobe man 25 years ago.

Minoru Tanaka, an employee at a Chinese noodle shop in Kobe, vanished in June 1978 at age 28 after leaving for Austria with the shop owner, according to the Hyogo prefectural chapter of the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea.

The complaint was filed with Hyogo Prefectural Police.

The group said the suspected agent, now 66 and living in Yamagata Prefecture, conspired with the noodle shop owner, who is also suspected of being a former North Korean agent, to abduct Tanaka.

According to records at Narita airport, Tanaka had departed for Austria.

In October, the chapter filed a complaint accusing the 62-year-old former shop owner of collaborating with pro-Pyongyang sympathizers to lure Tanaka to North Korea.

A now deceased man believed to have been a North Korean agent said in 1997 that the former shop owner had brought Tanaka to North Korea via Vienna, according to the group.

Both suspects denied this when questioned by police, the group said.