• Kyodo

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Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test was intended for an audience in Washington, lawmaker Antonio Inoki said Tuesday, citing a face-to-face conversation in Pyongyang with North Korea’s top foreign affairs official, Ri Su Yongk.

Inoki said he met with Ri for about 90 minutes Saturday. Ri is a vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

“This is not directed at Japan. The nuclear development is toward the United States,” Inoki quoted Ri as saying.

Ri, known as a trusted confidant of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, made the remark when Inoki asked about the timing of the nuclear test, according to the 73-year-old independent lawmaker, whose real given name is Kanji.

The meeting took place a day after the blast, Inoki said, talking to reporters at a Beijing airport after returning from North Korea.

According to Inoki, Ri said North Korea will not conduct a first strike using nuclear weapons, but Pyongyang is prepared to use them against the United States if Washington tries to undermine the Kim Jong Un regime.

Inoki, a former professional wrestler, said he did not meet with the North Korean leader, but Ri relayed a message of welcome from him.

“Under any circumstances, a window has to be kept open somewhere,” Inoki said, underscoring the importance of maintaining communication channels with North Korea even if tensions escalate over its nuclear and missile programs.

His visit to Pyongyang coincided with the 68th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean state. Friday was a public holiday that marked the event.

Before arriving in Pyongyang on Thursday, Inoki told reporters that his 31st trip to North Korea had nothing to do with the Japanese government and was aimed mainly at promoting sports exchanges.

The Upper House member has developed connections with North Korean officials through his visits, although Tokyo and Pyongyang have never had diplomatic relations.

He last visited North Korea two years ago, when he co-hosted a two-day wrestling event in Pyongyang.

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