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February 23, 09

NEWS / A North Korean Missile Launch Would Be Unhelpful, Clinton Says Japan is a critical ally of U.S. for


By Merle David Kellerhals, Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — A long-range ballistic missile launch by North Korea would prove unhelpful in enhancing sensitive U.S. and North Korean relations, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says.

“The decision as to whether North Korea will cooperate in the Six-Party Talks, end provocative language and actions is up to them and we are watching very closely,” Clinton said at a February 17 news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone in Tokyo.

Clinton is on a four-nation mission to assess current U.S. relations in East Asia, discuss current security and economic issues, and take those consultations and recommendations back to Washington for talks with President Obama and his national security team on the way ahead. The secretary, on her first trip abroad in her current position, is also traveling to Indonesia, South Korea and China.

“If North Korea abides by the obligations it has already entered into and verifiably and completely eliminates its nuclear program, then there will be a reciprocal response certainly from the United States,” she said. “The North Koreans have already agreed to dismantling [Korea’s nuclear weapons development program] in the 2007 agreement, and we expect them to fulfill the obligations that they entered into.”

The United States remains willing to move forward with improved diplomatic relations with North Korea, a peace treaty to formally end the 1950–1953 Korean War instead of an armistice, and humanitarian and economic assistance for the North Korean people, she said.

“It does require the North Korean government to commit to denuclearization and nonproliferation,” Clinton said.
Eliminating nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula has been a central facet of negotiations between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. The Six-Party Talks halted last year when the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Il refused to agree to a standard international system of verifying the dismantling of its nuclear weapons development program.

North Korea is expected to be a significant issue on the agenda during the secretary’s talks with Japan, South Korea and China.

“My goal is the denuclearization of North Korea, and that means a verifiably complete accounting of whatever programs they have and the removal of the reprocessed plutonium that they were able to achieve because they were given the opportunity to do so,” Clinton said.

JAPAN CRITICAL TO U.S. GLOBAL RELATIONS

In the first stop on her four-nation tour, Clinton said that Japan’s bilateral relationship with the United States “is a cornerstone of our efforts around the world. Its foundation has been and always will be a commitment to our shared security and prosperity.”

While in Japan, Clinton signed the Guam International Agreement with Japan, which was negotiated over several years; it moves 8,000 U.S. Marines currently stationed on Okinawa to Guam as part of a realignment of U.S. military forces and the emergence of a new Northeast Asia security arrangement. Currently, the United States has 50,000 military personnel stationed in Japan, and about 20,000 are on Okinawa.

Families of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s met for 30 minutes with Clinton, who listened intently to their accounts of the kidnappings. “I will say the abductee issue is an issue of grave concern [to the United States]. It’s such a human tragedy,” she said.

Clinton also announced that she has invited Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso to Washington the week of February 23 for a meeting at the White House. She also held a town hall meeting at Tokyo University with students and faculty.

Tags: secretary of state,
 




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