North Korean Shutdown of Reactor "Extremely Important"

By Stephen Kaufman
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The United States and Japan have repeated calls for North Korea to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor as part of its obligations under a February 13 agreement.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said North Korea's compliance is "extremely important because there are a number of steps that others would then, of course, be willing to take," referring to promises of heavy fuel oil shipments and other measures pledged by North Korea's partners in the Six-Party Talks. (See related article.)

Rice was speaking in Washington May 1 with her Japanese counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Aso, as well as with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Japanese Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma after a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee.

Rice said the United States, Japan and the other Six-Party members - China, South Korea, Russia and North Korea - did not realize the complexity of releasing North Korea's frozen funds at Banco Delta Asia (BDA) and allocated more time toward that resolution.

However, Rice said, "from our point of view, the United States has done what it needs to do to resolve the BDA issue."  She warned that while the United States and Japan will continue to consult on North Korea, "we don't have endless patience."

"We do recognize that North Korea has continued to publicly affirm its obligation under the February 13 agreement and to affirm its intention to carry through.  We expect them to do so," Rice said.

Rice also stressed the importance of implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737 and Resolution 1747, measures aimed at bringing Iran into full compliance with its International Atomic Energy Agency requirements.  She also urged Iran to "cease support for terrorism and play a positive role as a responsible member of the international community."

Foreign Minister Aso said the meeting of the four Japanese and Bush administration officials reaffirmed the United States' commitment to defend Japan "and also to offer deterrence, given the continued uncertainty and unpredictability in the security environment in this region," referring to North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile and nuclear test, as well as China's testing of an anti-satellite missile.

The leaders also had a "frank exchange of opinion on realignment of U.S. forces in Japan and Japan-U.S. cooperation on ballistic missile defense," Aso said.

Secretary Gates said Japan and the United States are "on track" in transforming their alliance "across a range of areas of cooperation … on our security agenda," particularly in the area of missile defense.

Gates said the transformation is coming after nearly two years of bilateral review on "the roles, missions and capabilities required to meet our shared regional and global objectives."  He also paid tribute to Japan's humanitarian contributions to NATO's operations in Afghanistan, as well as to Iraqi reconstruction efforts.

"I think these are both areas that illustrate where Japan can work with NATO in ways that are consistent with Japan's policies," he said.

Defense Minister Kyuma said one of the most significant outcomes of the day's meeting was the reaffirmation that the Futenma Air Station will be relocated and returned to Japan as part of the U.S. force realignment.

"Roles, mission and capabilities constitute a pillar of alliance transformation, along with U.S. forces realignment," Kyuma said.

A transcript of the press availability and the full text of the joint statement from the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting is available on the State Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula and Limiting Nuclear Weapons.