- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi yesterday urged North Korea not to launch a recently completed long-range missile, warning that doing so would bring serious consequences.

“We both agree that it’s very important for us to remain united in extending a clear message to the North Korean leader that launching the missile is unacceptable,” Mr. Bush said during a joint public appearance at the White House.

The Japanese prime minister, who took office three years after North Korea fired a missile over the island nation in 1998, also warned its communist neighbor to show restraint.

“Should they ever launch the missile, that will cause various pressures. We would apply various pressures,” Mr. Koizumi said through an interpreter. “I believe it is best I do not discuss what specific pressures we were talking about.”

Mr. Bush repeated concerns that North Korea has not disclosed “what’s on top of the missile,” implying that the nuclear power could arm a missile with devastating results. He said North Korean leader Kim Jong-il “hasn’t told anybody where the missile’s going.”

The president said a joint development of a missile-defense system would protect Japan.

“The Japanese cannot … afford to be held hostage to rockets. And neither can the United States or any other body who loves freedom,” Mr. Bush said. “And so one really interesting opportunity is … to share and cooperate on missile defenses.”

Pyongyang, which claims to have developed nuclear weapons, is thought to be preparing to launch a long-range Taepodong-2 missile capable of reaching Japan, Alaska, Hawaii or California. After the 1998 firing of a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan into the Pacific, Tokyo and Washington stepped up cooperation to build new missile defenses.

Mr. Bush said he and Mr. Koizumi also discussed the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens.

The president, who has twin daughters, recalled meeting with the mother of a Japanese woman reportedly abducted by North Korea, saying: “It really broke my heart.”

“I told the prime minister it was a moving moment for me. I just could not imagine what it would be like to have someone have taken, you know, my daughter — one of my daughters — and never be able to see her again,” he said.

Mr. Koizumi, who will step down later this year, injected some levity into his official visit, which will include a visit with Mr. Bush today to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home in Memphis, Tenn. Mr. Bush noted that he had given the prime minister a jukebox and asked about the first song Mr. Koizumi played.

“I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” Mr. Koizumi answered with a smile.

Getting the last word of the press conference, Mr. Koizumi referenced a famous Presley song, saying, “Thank you very much, American people, for ‘Love Me Tender.’”

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