Japan said Sunday that “all options” would be considered against North Korea, including oil and food sanctions, if the communist country tested a long-range missile that could reach the United States.
The United States, Japan and other countries have been trying to head off a potential missile launch. Intelligence reports say fuel tanks have been seen around a missile at a launch site on North Korea’s northeastern coast, but officials say it is difficult to determine from satellite photos if the rocket is actually being fueled.
In Washington, leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the Bush administration should talk directly with North Korea — something Pyongyang has been seeking for years.
“It would be advisable to bring about a much greater intensification of diplomacy, and this may involve direct talks between the United States and North Korea,” said committee chairman Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
In Pyongyang, “hundreds of thousands” of North Koreans marked the anniversary of the 1950 start of the Korean War by “denouncing the U.S. imperialists, the sworn enemy of the Korean people,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The protesters “reiterated the firm stand of the army and people of (the North) that should the U.S. imperialists ignite another war of aggression on this land, they will mobilize all the political and ideological might and military potentials built up generation after generation ... and mercilessly wipe out the enemies and victoriously conclude their standoff with the U.S.,” KCNA reported.
The Korean War ended in a 1953 cease-fire.
Roh: Security ‘still volatile’ issue
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun told war veterans that the North’s apparent moves to launch a missile show that security on the peninsula is “still volatile,” but he stressed that Seoul will continue reconciliation efforts. Those efforts started after a historic 2000 summit between the two nations.
“I think building trust between South and North (Korea) would provide a strong foundation for preserving peace,” Roh said in comments released by his office.
The government in Pyongyang gave no hint whether it would test-fire a missile, said Jane Coombs, New Zealand’s ambassador to the Koreas, who met with top North Korean officials. She recently took a four-day trip to Pyongyang.
The potential test is believed to be of a Taepodong-2 missile, which the U.S. government estimates has a range of between 5,000 and 7,500 miles.
“All options are on the table,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Sunday on public broadcaster NHK, referring to what Japan would do if there was a launch. “I believe public opinion would condone sanctions, even on oil or food.”
The Bush administration has said it is relying on diplomacy to head off the suspected test, but there has been speculation it might use its fledgling missile defense system to shoot down an incoming missile if it is fired.
In New York, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said the Americans had approached the North Koreans last weekend “and told them that we thought the idea of a launch was a very bad idea.”
Pyongyang has said it is willing to talk to the United States about its missile concerns. Washington, however, has refused, insisting it will only meet the North amid six-nation talks aimed at ridding Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons program.
Japanese official condemns ‘intimidation’
Aso said Sunday that the North’s brinkmanship would not help it achieve its goal of direct negotiations with Washington.
“How can you put up a rocket and then demand talks? That’s intimidation, and makes it most difficult for America to engage in talks,” he said.
The six-country nuclear disarmament talks — involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia — have stalled since November.
Lugar said he respected those talks, but “nevertheless, with regard to a missile that might have a range of the United States, that becomes a very specific United States-North Korean issue.”
“We’re going to have to come to a point where we find at least an agenda to talk with North Korea about, and I think we are moving toward that,” Lugar told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
The North shocked the world in 1998 by firing a missile that flew over northern Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. It has been under a self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile tests since 1999, but has since test-fired many short-range missiles.