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Japanese, South Korean Envoys Meet Ahead of Anticipated N. Korea Rocket Test


South Koreans and Japanese envoys to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program have met in Tokyo. The negotiations remain deadlocked and North Korea is expected to test-fire a long-range missile in the coming weeks.

North Korea says that it will send a communications satellite into orbit between April 4-8. However, both Seoul and Tokyo suspect the launch is actually to test-fire a long-range missile.

Monday, South Korea's top envoy to the six-party talks, Wi Sung-lak, arrived in Japan to meet with his counterpart, Akitaka Saiki. Both men are urging North Korea to scrap its launch plan and intend to take the issue to the United Nations Security Council, if any type of rocket is fired.

But, Narushige Michishita, an assistant professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, says there may not be much international support, depending on what North Korea actually launches.

"If it's a missile, then its going to be obviously a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions," said Michishita. But if it's a satellite, nations would disagree if it amounts to a violation of Security Council resolutions."

Tokyo maintains that it has the right to shoot down whatever North Korea fires, if it strays into their territory. However, Michishita is not sure if the Japanese military is capable of intercepting such a rocket.

Pyongyang says it will consider any attempts to down its missile as an act or war.

Many analysts believe this launch, as well as the deadlock in the six-party talks, is a means for North Korea to procure more concessions.

Japan, for its part, refuses to participate in energy assistance promised to Pyongyang, until a decades-long kidnapping dispute is resolved.

Michishita says it really does not matter what Tokyo does or does not do in the talks, because North Korea only wants to engage Washington.

"Obviously, North Koreans are trying to move ahead with the Americans first," said Michishita. "If they successfully move forward or make progress with the U.S., they will be able to then say, look Japan, look South Korea, would you like to fall behind. By doing so, they will be able to create a situation where they have a better bargaining chip or be in a better negotiating position."

Earlier this month, Washington's special envoy to North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, visited Japan, South Korea and China, but was not invited by the North Koreans to hold talks in Pyongyang.


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