• Kyodo News


Prime Minister Taro Aso and his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, have agreed that the rocket launch North Korea is planning would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution against the communist country.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Aso and Brown reaffirmed during a 20-minute telephone conversation Sunday night that North Korea should refrain from the launch.

Pyongyang claims the launch is for sending a satellite into orbit, but Japan and its allies suspect it’s a cover for a ballistic missile test.

The Japanese and British leaders agreed it will be necessary to take the issue to the Security Council to discuss possible punitive action if Pyongyang goes ahead with the launch.

The Security Council resolution was adopted in October 2006 after North Korea test-fired missiles and conducted an underground nuclear test.

North Korea has notified international agencies that the planned launch will be carried out sometime between Saturday and April 8.

Brown and Aso also discussed the global credit crisis. Aso said financial leaders from the Group of 20 nations will have to send a positive message at a meeting Thursday in London to help the ailing global economy recover.

Brown praised a $100 billion loan Japan will provide to the International Monetary Fund to bolster the fund’s resources. Brown and Aso also vowed to pursue close cooperation for the success of the G20 financial summit.

Navy offers assurance

YOKOSUKA , Kanagawa Pref. (Kyodo) The commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan reassured the Japanese public Monday that the country is safe from potential threats involving the rocket North Korea plans to launch as early as this weekend.

“I wouldn’t lose sleep at night. Japan is very safe,” Rear Adm. James Kelly told a news conference at the navy base in Yokosuka.

He said the U.S. Navy is cooperating closely with the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Pyongyang says it is preparing to put a satellite into orbit between Saturday and April 8. There is concern in Japan the rocket or parts of it may fall onto Japanese territory if the launch fails.

In response to the planned launch, Japan has deployed three Aegis destroyers, two of which are fitted with antimissile missiles, around Japan and Patriot guided-missile units to select locations in the country.

Kelly declined to say how many guided-missile ships the U.S. 7th Fleet has deployed around Japan but said more than half of the cruisers and destroyers based at Yokosuka can launch guided missiles against ballistic missiles.

He said the U.S. forces are “postured the right way” to respond to the launch and are complemented by the Self-Defense Forces.

“I’m quite confident in the operational leaders that we’ve got on our side of the alliance to have their forces and their operations at the right places at the right times with the right readiness and the right gear to take care of business whatever it may be,” Kelly said.

Five Aegis destroyers of the U.S. Navy modified for ballistic missile defense had left Yokosuka and other Japanese ports by Monday. They are expected to detect and track the North Korean rocket, which should pass over northeastern Japan if the launch goes according to plan.

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