Japan and U.S. Warn N. Korea On Missile
Friday, June 30, 2006
President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi escalated pressure on North Korea yesterday not to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile now sitting on a launch pad, and they warned that the nation would be further cut off from the rest of the international community if it proceeds.
"Launching the missile is unacceptable," Bush said at a news conference with Koizumi after the two privately conferred on the confrontation with North Korea. Referring to Kim Jong Il, the president added, "The leader of North Korea is just going to have to make a decision: Does he want to be isolated from the world, or is he interested in being an active participant?"
Koizumi would not discuss options if North Korea defies Washington and Tokyo, but made clear he would seek to impose diplomatic consequences. "Should they ever launch the missile," he said, "we would apply various pressures."
The discussion of North Korea came during the first day of a two-day visit by Koizumi, his last with Bush before stepping down in September. Bush, who considers Koizumi one of his best friends among foreign leaders, pulled out all the stops, starting with a pomp-filled welcome on the South Lawn, meetings in the Oval Office, an East Room news conference and, finally, last night a black-tie dinner.
Around the White House and Blair House, where Koizumi stayed as Bush's guest, the streets and buildings were festooned with U.S. and Japanese flags. Bush plans to cap the visit by taking Koizumi, a longtime Elvis Presley fan, to Graceland in Memphis today. He gave Koizumi an old-fashioned jukebox yesterday, complete with vinyl records of Presley and other 1950s rock stars. The two leaders peppered their talks with Presley references.
"Thank you, very much, American people, for 'Love Me Tender,' " Koizumi said in accented English.
The meetings touched on a number of serious issues, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and U.S. beef exports. But the main purpose was to cement the relationship Bush has built with Koizumi in hopes that it will carry over to his successor. Koizumi has been a chief supporter of Bush even as other foreign leaders kept their distance. Still, he is pulling out 500 Japanese engineers serving in Iraq, although he will increase Japanese airlift support in the country.
The most urgent issue confronting the two was North Korea, which has a Taepodong-2 missile poised for a possible launch, although it is not clear whether it has been fully fueled. The United States has speeded plans to deploy Patriot interceptor missiles at U.S. bases in Japan, acknowledging the threat that North Korea may pose.
Bush said he will look to expand cooperation with Japan on anti-missile programs. "Another interesting opportunity is, over time, to work on missile defenses," he said. "The Japanese cannot afford to be held hostage to rockets, and neither can the United States or any other body who loves freedom."