Monday, November 13, 2006

Warning North Korea

The U.S. ambassador to Japan yesterday warned North Korea against misinterpreting the U.S. midterm elections by assuming that Democratic control of Congress will mean a softer line on the country’s rogue nuclear weapons program.

The new Congress will maintain the traditional strong ties with Japan, Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer said at a business conference.

He also said Democrats are just as determined as Republicans to get North Korea to return to multiparty talks with representatives from the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

“I hope that the North Koreans don’t misinterpret these elections and think that they have greater leverage now,” Mr. Schieffer said.

The ambassador said the election was not a mandate on North Korea, explaining “it was not a hot-button issue with many Americans.”

Mr. Schieffer dismissed speculation in the Japanese press that the election will result in less U.S. attention toward Japan and a preoccupation with withdrawing troops from Iraq.

“You’re not going to see any change in American policy toward Japan. I believe leaders of both parties recognize the essential nature of our relationship to peace and stability in this part of the world,” he said.

“This alliance has existed for more than 50 years, and the North Koreans are not going to divide the United States and Japan.”

He predicted the new Congress, which convenes in January, will also maintain the current policy toward the other countries that are parties to the negotiations with North Korea.

“We’re not going to allow them to divide us from the Chinese, the South Koreans and the Russians,” he said.

A pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, the Chosun Sinbo, praised American voters for rejecting Bush administration policies of “madness and despotism.”

Open for business

The United States and the European Union are working to cut “burdensome” regulations that put a drag on economic growth, adopt policies to protect intellectual property rights and promote innovative technology, according to U.S. and EU officials who met in Washington last week.

“The U.S. and EU economic relationship continues to be the largest and most successful trade and investment relation in the world,” said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who co-hosted the meeting with Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman.

The United States and the 25-member EU trade $756 billion in goods and services every year, although the economic statistics on both sides of the Atlantic vary widely.

The United States enjoys a low unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, while the jobless rate in Europe averages 9 percent. EU growth rates last year showed a gap from a low of 1.2 percent in France to a high of 10.2 percent in Latvia.

The EU officials Gunter Verheugen, vice president of the European Commission, and Mauri Pekkarinen, Finland’s minister for trade and industry, agreed they must work to streamline the regulatory burden on business and investment, Mr. Gutierrez added.

“We recognize the need to continue to focus on the burdensome regulations that slow down economic growth, to promote enforcement of intellectual property rights and to identify ways to collaborate on innovation efforts,” he said.

They agreed to pursue “new projects” in areas such as automotive technology and health care services “to bring meaningful results for both economies,” Mr. Gutierrez said.

Mr. Verheugen agreed on the need to endorse “results-oriented policies” to reduce “bureaucracy and regulatory barriers to trade and investment.”

“The aim of strengthening growth and competitiveness, creating jobs and boosting productivity through innovation lies at the heart of both the European economic agenda and of the trans-Atlantic economic initiative,” he said.

Mr. Bodman said the officials also discussed ways to “provide reliable, affordable and clean energy to our countries.”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@

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