- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) — Japan should not even consider acquiring nuclear arms, despite increased military threats from North Korea, senior Japanese lawmakers said Tuesday.

Their opposition to military intervention wasn't limited to dealing with North Korea: like the French, they also expressed concern about the possibility of the United States attacking Iraq without full U.N. support.

"Japan must not possess nuclear weapons," said Eisei Ito, a member of the House of Representatives of the opposition Democratic Party, adding that the global trend was for countries to disarm.

"That is why we vehemently oppose North Korea holding nuclear weapons … and even if the Korean Peninsula were to unify some time in the future, it must not have nuclear capabilities."

Under the constitution, Japan isn't allowed to deploy troops abroad, which makes it difficult for the country to take part in international military efforts.

Indeed, Japanese troops didn't take part in the Gulf War or the conflict in Afghanistan. Instead, its role was limited to backup support and financial aid. As for nuclear arms, Japan's past as the only country that has been a target of the atom bomb — twice during World War II — has kept public opposition to nuclear arms consistently high.

Ito and fellow Democratic Diet member Seiji Maehara briefed policy-makers about their visit to Washington and voiced their concern about the growing threat across the Japanese shores. On Monday, North Korea conducted its first missile launch test in three years. There was no physical damage, as the rocket splashed down in the Sea of Japan, between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, landing in North Korean territorial waters.

Moreover, it wasn't the first time that North Korean missile tests have rattled the Japanese — and other countries in Asia. In the last test, in 1998, North Korea launched a long-range missile that actually over flew Japan and fell into the Pacific.

The growing concern is that the belligerent state could soon possess nuclear capabilities.

"North Korea may already possess nuclear weapons … or develop them very soon," Maehara said. He added that Kim Jong Il's regime was likely to take advantage of a conflict in Iraq to develop its nuclear capabilities and "work the crisis situation into its advantage … to be in a position to negotiate favorably" for financial aid, as the international community focused on Iraq.

But the concerns extended to the United States. Commenting on the U.S. decision to provide more food aid to the country that has been on the brink on starvation, Maehara said that the U.S. policy was unwise.

"We must be wary of providing food aid too readily," Maehara said, noting that North Korean authorities had often failed to distribute food assistance fairly.

The U.S. State Department announced early Tuesday that it would resume shipment of 40,000 metric tons of food after a two-month hiatus. If the food is distributed fairly, then the shipment will be increased to 60,000 tons, although the total will be between 35 percent and 75 percent lower than last year's level.

The Liberal Party stated that no financial assistance should be provided until diplomatic ties are normalized, which can only happen until it is clear that North Korea has destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction.

As for the Iraqi threat, both lawmakers emphasized that while suspicions of Saddam Hussein's regime possessing weapons of mass destruction were high, the United States should nonetheless refrain from attacking the country on its own, without broad international support.

"Iraq is not the only country in the world which has weapons of mass destruction," Ito said, adding that the number of potentially dangerous nations was on the rise. "And the United States cannot squash them all unilaterally," he added.

Maehara, meanwhile, pointed out that attacking Iraq could only be justified as an act of clear self-defense or as a result of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Declaring war on Iraq without either condition would make Iraq a "hero of a tragedy, and the United States will become the bad guy … and increase sympathy (for Iraq's cause) from terrorists."

Moreover, dealing with Iraq without a broad international coalition will make it more difficult to deal with North Korea in a rational manner should the need arise, Maehara added.

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