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Japan Using Diplomacy for UN Condemnation of North Korea

Japan is hopeful it can persuade all five members of the U.N. Security Council to issue a strong condemnation of North Korea following Sunday's rocket launch. The North Koreans contend they launched a communications satellite into space - but the United States, Japan and South Korea say the missile payload fell into the Pacific Ocean.

Japan is engaging in intense diplomacy in hopes of persuading China and Russia not to use their U.N. Security Council veto power to prevent strong condemnation of North Korea for Sunday's rocket launch.

Foreign Ministry Deputy Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura tells VOA News Japan remains optimistic all five Security Council members will be able to reach agreement.

"Today's meeting was just the beginning of the process. Therefore Japan would like to continue our best efforts to come up with a very strong message from the Security Council," said Kawamura.

While awaiting U.N. action, Japan is considering a total ban on exports to North Korea. But analysts say such a punitive sanction would be more of a political move with limited practical impact. Many Japanese exports desired by North Korea, such as strategic materials for its weapons programs and automobiles, are already prohibited under unilateral sanctions in place since 2006.

For some in Japan, patience has run out with trying to get North Korea to modify its behavior through such trade restrictions.

North Korea's missile launches and nuclear weapons programs, seen as fundamental threats to Japan, follow years of frustration on another issue with Pyongyang - the kidnappings of Japanese citizens over decades by North Korean agents.

A former senior Japanese defense official, Toshio Tamogami, tells VOA the time has come for Japan to use tougher language with North Korea.

Tamogami says Japan has to take a stance that it will use its Self Defense Forces if talking to North Korea does not produce results, as with the unresolved issue of the abductees.

That sort of controversial rhetoric recently led to Tamogami's ouster as the air force chief of staff. Such hawkish views, once barely whispered on the fringes in a pacifist Japan that vowed forever to renounce waging war after its unconditional surrender in 1945, are becoming less taboo.

That is a result of the perceived repeated provocations by North Korea towards Japan.

But military and national security analyst Kazuhiko Inoue says North Korea's rocket launch was not meant to provoke Japan. He says, rather, it had a wider strategic aim and will be of commercial value.

"One aim is they will build up the long-range missiles aiming at United States' cities. Another aim is the weapons show to sell their missile to the Middle East [countries] who would like to buy such a cheap weapon."

Some experts say North Korea earns 15 percent of its national income from weapons sales.