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Japan still worried about N. Korea missiles.

TOKYO, June 16 Kyodo

Japan said Friday it remains concerned about North Korea's missiles and ruled out the possibility of changing its plan to launch spy satellites and reducing U.S. military bases in Okinawa in the wake of a successful first-ever inter-Korean summit this week.

"We also have concerns about the missile issue, and we have not changed that position," Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Chikahito Harada told a press conference in reference to a similar view expressed overnight by the United States.

Harada said Tokyo will also not abandon its 1998 decision to launch information-gathering satellites by fiscal 2002, a move taken after North Korea fired a multistage rocket on Aug. 31 that year over Japan.

"I do not think we have to change our decision on satellites," he said. "This is still at the design stage."

Tokyo insists the rocket was for testing a long-range ballistic missile, part of which flew over Japan into the Pacific Ocean, while Pyongyang claims it was for sending a satellite into orbit.

As both Japan and the U.S. had requested prior to the summit, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung reportedly conveyed international concerns to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il about the North's nuclear and missile development.

But Harada called it "the first step" when asked if the summit will help alleviate the missile concern. "We hope this dialogue...continues and tension on the Korean Peninsula will ease."

Referring to a U.S. announcement it will extend fresh food aid to North Korea, Harada said, "At this stage, we do not have any plan to provide additional aid."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki, speaking at a separate press conference, said the inter-Korea accord toward reconciliation and reunification "has no direct linkage" with the issue of U.S. military bases in the southernmost island prefecture of Okinawa.

"I'm not aware of any chance (of reducing U.S. bases in Okinawa) although I think various opinions were expressed at the peaceful summit," the top government spokesman said.

Aoki also brushed aside any chance that the government will amend its December decision to discuss requests by the Okinawa prefectural government to impose a 15-year limit on the U.S. military's use of a new facility slated for construction to take over helicopter operations at the Futemma U.S. Marine Corps Air Station.

"We are absolutely not considering any change," Aoki said. "We will go in line with the cabinet decision."

The cabinet decided to take up the 15-year request during consultations with the U.S. but did not say it accepted the proposed imposition of the limit and would negotiate with Washington.

The decision calls for building a military-civilian airport for the relocation in Okinawa, a condition set by Tokyo and Washington when they agreed in 1996 to vacate Futemma.

Harada said Japan has received information from South Korea that President Kim conveyed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's message of a "strong will and eagerness" by Tokyo to normalize relations with Pyongyang.

But he refused to disclose details, including how the North Korean leader responded to Mori's message.

"We have not finished our coordination (with the South Korean side) on what should be made public," Harada said, noting that a special South Korean envoy will visit Japan on Monday and Tuesday for a more detailed briefing on the summit.

The Foreign Ministry said in the statement that Hwang Won Tak, senior secretary for diplomacy and security for Kim, will hold talks with Foreign Minister Yohei Kono on Monday and with Mori on Tuesday.

Harada said Japan is also consulting with South Korea and the U.S. on convening a meeting of the high-level trilateral group in charge of coordinating policies on North Korea.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Jun 19, 2000
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