Japan looks for ways to respond to missile launch

PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

TOKYO - Now that North Korea has launched a second intercontinental ballistic missile, following its July 4 launch, the government intends to tighten co-operation with countries including the United States and South Korea to strengthen pressure on the isolated nation.

Tokyo wants to utilize all possible opportunities, including foreign ministerial talks and meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be held early in August, to call for increased co-operation.

However, there is sentiment within the government that the situation has reached an impasse because of reluctance from Russia and China to impose additional sanctions against North Korea.

"We continue to work with the United States and South Korea," Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters when he arrived at the ministry in the small hours of Saturday after the North Korean missile launch.

"At the same time, we will try to talk to China and Russia to encourage them to play constructive roles."

Kishida spoke separately with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha on the phone on Saturday morning, and the three agreed to coordinate a new sanctions resolution against North Korea to be adopted at the UN Security Council.

Earlier, Kenji Kanasugi, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, spoke separately with US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun and South Korean Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Kim Hong Kyun, and confirmed they will work together on the issue.

A meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum, which includes ASEAN members and nations including Japan, the United States and China, is set to be held. Japan and the United States plan to seek co-operation from China, which has a great deal of influence over North Korea.

China has resisted imposing tougher sanctions against North Korea. Tokyo and Washington are working closely together - such as by freezing the assets of Chinese companies that have close ties with North Korea - to press Beijing to play a part in efforts to strengthen containment of North Korea.

However, the impact has been limited so far.

"While China has remained inactive, North Korea's missile technology has steadily improved," a senior Foreign Ministry official said. Kishida, who was appointed to concurrently serve as defence minister on the day of North Korea's latest missile test, was busy managing the aftermath of the launch.

After attending a National Security Council meeting with Prime Minister Shizo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga early Saturday morning at the Prime Minister's Office, Kishida moved to the Defence Ministry in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, to gather information on the launch.

He then went to the Foreign Ministry to communicate with other countries to discuss strengthening co-operation.

He left the ministry for home at about 3:50 a.m. Saturday. Referring to Kishida serving as foreign and defence minister concurrently, Suga said, "There are absolutely no problems."