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Japan Remains Firm on Call for UN Sanctions on North Korea


Japan is urging the United Nations to send a strong message to North Korea and vote for its U.S.-backed resolution to sanction Pyongyang for last weeks missile tests.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso made the rounds of the Sunday TV talks shows in Japan, maintaining Tokyo's call for U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

Appearing on NHK, Aso says a U.N. resolution without binding sanctions would be meaningless.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on a resolution Monday. China and Russia, which hold veto power, are reluctant to support sanctions and want milder wording.

Foreign Minister Aso says he expects Russia may abstain in the vote and that China could face isolation if it votes against sanctions.

South Korea responded by criticizing what President Roh Moo-hyun's office called Japan's "hawkish" stance and questioned whether such sanctions would dissuade an impoverished communist North Korea from further testing missiles.

The lack of agreement on sanctions on North Korea has made it difficult on Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill - who was dispatched to Asia last week to forge a consensus after North Korea test fired seven missiles into the Sea of Japan.

Hill, before departing Seoul for Tokyo, denied that Washington's goal is to get all the players to support U.N. sanctions.

"I think what is important is that we coordinate what we are doing and we need to coordinate in a way that gives a very clear message," said Hill.

South Korean officials promised Hill that they would raise the missile issue during inter- Korean ministerial talks scheduled for Tuesday. Seoul has also halted food aid to the North after last Wednesday's test launches.

The senior U.S. diplomat also met with Chinese officials in Beijing Friday, stressing there was agreement on sending a "clear signal" to Pyongyang that missile tests are not acceptable.

Hill will discuss just what a "clear signal" means with Japanese officials Monday.

North Korea promised in principle last September to dismantle its nuclear programs, but has boycotted the China-hosted six-nation talks for nine months. North Korea has said it will not return until the United States lifts financial sanctions. Pyongyang is threatening to use force if any country tries to pressure it to halt its missile testing.