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North Korea says Japanese sanctions would be “declaration of war”

AFP | December 15 2004

SEOUL - North Korea warned on Wednesday that it would regard any sanctions imposed on it by Japan as a declaration of war and would hit back with an “effective physical” response.

It also aid it would reconsider its participation in six-nation talks aimed at ending the nuclear stand-off if a “provocative campaign” under way in Japan against the country continued, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

The outburst came after Japan said it would halt aid shipments to the impoverished Stalinist state in a dispute over the fate of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents during the Cold war.

It also came amid stepped up efforts to jump-start stalled talks on the nuclear stand-off three months after Pyongyang failed to show for a scheduled fourth round.

“If sanctions are applied against the DPRK (North Korea)..., we will regard it as a declaration of war against our country and promptly react to the action by an effective physical method,” the unidentified spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Koran Central News Agency news agency.

More than two-thirds of Japanese support sanctions against the Stalinist state, according to a newspaper poll, after Pyongyang provided the wrong ashes to Japan to support its claim that two Japanese whom it kidnapped during the Cold War had since died.

One of those kidnapped to train spies in Japanese language and culture was Megumi Yokota, abducted in 1977 as a 13-year-old schoolgirl.

Tokyo announced last week that DNA tests showed charred remains handed to a Japanese delegation last month did not, as Pyongyang claimed, belong to Yokota.

The finding reignited anger in Japan against North Korea and Tokyo froze shipments of food aid to the destitute country.

However, the North Korean foreign ministry spokesman insisted that the human remains were those of Yokota and said Pyongyang suspected the test results were “cooked up” to serve a political purpose.

The remains had been handed to Japanese authorities by Yokota’s husband and it was “unimaginable” he would give them the ashes of anyone else, the North Korean spokesman said.

Instead, elements in Japan were trying to revive a long-standing row over the abductions “because they needed a subterfuge to justify Japan’s militarisation, hold in check any improvement in the bilateral relations and step up their political and military interference in regional issues,” he said.

He accused the United States of supporting this because it wanted to provoke a war on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea has returned five kidnap victims to Japan after admitting in 2002 to the abductions in return for an aid package and talks on normalising relations.

But the families of eight other abductees whom Pyongyang claims are dead believe they are still alive but are detained in North Korea because they know too much about the secretive regime.

A Japanese official said Tuesday the United States had warned Japan to be cautious about imposing sanctions on North Korea because the unpredictable regime could “out-manoeuvre” such a move.

The talks aimed at persuading North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons drive have stalled after three rounds since Pyongyang boycotted a fourth session planned for September.

Besides Japan and North Korea, the negotiations involve South Korea, China, Russia and the United States.