Japan is holding out hope that a combination of more sanctions and the opportunity to return to dialogue will keep North Korea from further pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. That emerged from an exclusive interview VOA correspondent Steve Herman conducted Wednesday with Japan's foreign minister in Tokyo.
While Japan expects the U.N. Security Council to enact fresh, tougher sanctions against North Korea, Japan's foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, voices continued hope for constructive diplomacy with Pyongyang
Kishida says Japan "needs to deal with North Korea in a balance between dialogue and pressure." He cites an agreement Tokyo and Pyongyang signed 11 years ago as the basis for this. In that regard, the foreign minister says, Japan must "firmly and strongly continue to ask North Korea for a comprehensive resolution" of the issues of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development, as well as the unresolved abductions of Japanese citizens over decades by Pyongyang's agents.
A North Korean government-controlled web site in China (Uriminzokkiri) on Wednesday claimed Pyongyang is now secure from foreign attack because even the United States is now within range of its "strategic rockets and nuclear weapons."
Japanese and other diplomats contend Beijing has the most influence over Pyongyang in terms of modifying North Korean behavior.
Chinese marine surveillance ship Haijian No. 51 (R) cruises next to a Japan Coast Guard patrol ship, Akaishi, in the East China Sea near the disputed isles known as Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China, Feb. 4, 2013.
But Japan and China are not getting along, primarily because of the increasing number of air and sea confrontations between the two countries in waters surrounding uninhabited islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan.
The Japanese foreign minister declares himself satisfied with Washington's support of Tokyo's territorial claims, although some in Japan have been hoping for more openly supportive rhetoric from U.S. officials.
Kishida says Washington's understanding was affirmed at last week's Japan-U.S. summit and this is important "in light of the escalation of Chinese actions and behavior."
In his interview with VOA, the foreign minister added that while Japan places emphasis on its partnership with the United States, which includes a military alliance, it is time for Tokyo to strengthen its own capabilities, including increasing defense expenditures as well as reviewing defense program guidelines.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, back in office for two months, is expected to push ahead with campaign pledges to make changes to the U.S.-imposed pacifist constitution Japan adopted after its defeat in the Second World War. Article 9 of the constitution includes language which forbids Japan from engaging in collective self-defense and forever renounces war or using force to settle international disputes.
Some in Asian nations occupied by Japan during the early 20th century warn the changes would set the stage for Japan's return to the nationalism and militarism of the last century.