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October 28, 2009

Japan Calls Latest Nuclear Threat by North Korea 'Suicidal'

by Steve Herman

Japan says it would be "suicidal" for North Korea to push ahead with several announced atomic reactor projects, but China says multi-party negotiations aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs are still on track.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that Pyongyang planned to start developing light water reactors for nuclear energy. The news service also repeated a threat to resume work on a pair of graphite-moderated reactors, which experts say would be able to produce a significant amount of material for atomic weapons.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Tomohiko Taniguchi says such moves would make pointless further six-party negotiations on the North's weapons programs, hosted by China and also involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia.

"It is going to be suicidal for North Korea to pursue that course. This is going to undermine the whole rationale of six-party talks," he said.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, had a more subdued reaction in Beijing on Tuesday.

Mr. Qin says China hopes all nations will adhere to previous promises and put their utmost efforts into having the talks make substantial progress. He says Beijing believes that all of the parties are still willing to make progress.

Pyongyang has been escalating its threats since Sunday. On Monday, it announced that it would accelerate its nuclear deterrent.

An international consortium recently canceled an earlier plan to give the communist state two light-water reactors in exchange for abandoning its nuclear weapons programs. North Korea now says it wants compensation for the cancellation.

North Korea's Voice of Korea radio, quoting the Rodon Sinmun newspaper on Tuesday, repeated a frequently made accusation that the United States is preparing to launch a pre-emptive military attack on the country.

"Under any circumstances, the DPRK will make full preparations to cope with the possible war moves of the United States," a broadcaster said.

At the last round of six-party talks, North Korea agreed in principle to dismantle all its nuclear programs in return for economic aid and security guarantees. But the government has recently complained that Washington's imposition of financial sanctions on several North Korean companies goes against the spirit of the talks.

Pyongyang denies U.S. accusations that the companies have engaged in counterfeiting large amounts of U.S. currency, and laundering money through international banks.