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Japan Hoping for UN Action on N. Korean Missile Launch

Japan hopes 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. Security Council members Sunday failed to agree on how to respond the launch, which Pyongyang says was designed to put a communications satellite into space. Japanese officials and citizens are upset over what they see as North Korea's attempt to develop its ballistic missile capabilities.

This is supposed to be one of the most delightful times of year in Japan - a relaxing respite to view the hallowed cherry blossoms. But this year's springtime tradition has been overshadowed by North Korea's rocket launch, which Japan terms as extremely provocative.

Memories of the destruction caused by American bombers during World War II have been revived among some older Japanese by the missile launch.

PEDESTRIAN 1: "It's terrible. It gives me chills, really. I lost my father in the war and my mother had to raise four children. Japan has to act tougher. We can't put up with this any longer. It makes me cry."

Japan is engaging in intense diplomacy at the UN Security Council to persuade China and Russia not to veto a strong condemnation of North Korea for Sunday's rocket launch. No declaration was issued at the Security Council meeting Sunday called by Japan.

At the Foreign Ministry, Deputy Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura says his government remains optimistic the Security Council will reach an agreement soon.

"Japan would like to continue our best efforts to come up with a very strong message from the Security Council," he said.

Some in Japan are pessimistic their country can take the diplomatic lead to persuade North Korea to change course.

PEDESTRIAN 2: "Our government is too weak, too careful against surrounding people. Our government should take the first initiative and go straight and ask America to have closer contact [with North Korea]."

North Korea's nuclear-weapons program and rocket launches are seen by Japan as fundamental threats. They follow years of frustration by Tokyo over another issue with Pyongyang -- the kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents. While some have been released, Japan suspects others remain in the North.

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

"We have to take a stance that Japan will use its Self Defense Forces if talking to North Korea is not going to produce results, as has also been the case of the abducted Japanese citizens," he said.

Such hawkish views are becoming less taboo in pacifist Japan, which maintains a self defense force but vowed to renounce waging war following its unconditional surrender in 1945.

This change is the result of North Korea's militaristic policies, which Japan views as provocative.