US and Japan take united stand against N.Korea

Wind up nuclear arms programme or we will impose more sanctions, threaten Bush and Abe.

THE United States and Japan have adopted a tough united stance against North Korea.

US President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe threatened more sanctions if Pyongyang did not implement steps to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

“Our patience is not unlimited,” Mr Bush said on Friday during a press conference with Mr Abe at the Camp David presidential retreat.

“There’s still time for the North Korean leader to make the right choice.” Mr Abe said “a lot of time” was spent on discussing North Korea during the meeting.

He noted: “Should the North Koreans fail to keep their promise, we will step up our pressures on North Korea, and on that point again, I believe we see eye to eye.”

Tokyo has been increasingly concerned about a “soft” US policy towards Pyongyang.

While both governments publicly agree on the direction of disarmament talks, conservatives in Japan have criticised US moves to engage North Korea in bilateral discussions. This entailed allowing the return of US$25 million (S$38 million) in frozen North Korean funds in an attempt to move the disarmament process forward.

In February, Pyongyang agreed to drop its nuclear arms programme but has refused to keep that promise by shutting down its nuclear reactor.

Mr Bush described the complication as a “bump in the road to getting them to honour their agreement” and said that Washington was trying to “clarify” the funds problem.

“We now have a structure in place to continue to provide a strong message to the North Koreans,” he said.

“We have the capability of more sanctions. We have the capability of convincing other nations to send a clear message, so I like our position in terms of achieving this issue in a diplomatic way.”

The warning came amid reports that North Korea displayed a newly developed ballistic missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam during a military parade last week.

Observers here see Mr Bush’s comments as an attempt to show Mr Abe, who was making his first visit to the US, that Washington was not softening its stance on North Korea.

The meeting reinforced the strength of the 50-year-old alliance between the world’s two biggest economies.

“The alliance has never been stronger, and the Prime Minister and I will work hard to keep it that way,” said Mr Bush.

Pyongyang was clearly a major focus of discussions but the two leaders also touched on a range of other issues: Iran’s nuclear ambitions, global warming, the disputed beef shipments to Japan, and Iraq.

Mr Bush also took the opportunity during the press conference to warn his Democrat opponents not to “test my will” after he vetoes a Bill withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

He promised to strike down any subsequent attempt by the Democrat-led Congress to set a deadline for a pullout.

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