- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

TOKYO — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday sought Japan’s help in an expanded plan to stop and search ships to and from North Korea suspected of carrying nuclear- and missile-related cargo.

“We want very much this to be done in a way that is steady, effective and brings close scrutiny to North Korean transfers,” Miss Rice said during the first stop on a tour that also will take her to Seoul, Beijing and Moscow.

Miss Rice also pledged the “full range” of U.S. military power to protect Japan from an attack from North Korea.

“The United States has the will and the capability to meet the full range, and I underscore the full range, of its deterrence and security commitment to Japan,” she told reporters.

Miss Rice met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the visit.

In Washington yesterday, President Bush warned North Korea of “grave” consequences if it sells nuclear arms, and top U.S. nuclear negotiator Christopher R. Hill acknowledged signs of North Korea preparing to conduct a second, though not imminent, nuclear test.

“If we get intelligence they’re about to transfer a nuclear weapon, we would stop the transfer,” Mr. Bush told ABC News, vowing to deal with ships and airplanes and take all measures against North Korea selling nuclear arms to other countries and non-state entities such as terrorists.

Miss Rice’s trip follows a unanimous decision by the U.N. Security Council Saturday to impose sanctions on North Korea for its test of a nuclear weapon last week.

CNN and Fox News reported yesterday that U.S. spy satellites have detected possible preparations for more tests, and CNN said North Korea had told China that it plans to conduct “as many as three additional tests.”

One of the main questions concerning the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 is how to conduct interdictions of ships that would stop illicit materials from getting to the North, but would not be hostile acts.

The resolution explicitly rejects military force as a response, and Miss Rice emphasized yesterday that the United States was not imposing a blockade or an embargo against North Korea.

According to diplomats and local news reports, Japan would use patrol and surveillance aircraft to detect suspicious vessels in Japanese waters and surrounding areas. The country’s navy would then dispatch destroyers to pursue the vessel and ask it to stop for an inspection.

If it complies, Japanese and U.S. forces stationed in Japan would board and inspect the cargo.

If it refuses, Japan would negotiate with other involved countries, such as those whose flags the ships fly or where they are registered, to inspect the shipments “by other means.”

Those “means” are one of the sticking points in the negotiations between the United States and Japan, on one side, and China and South Korea, which share land borders with North Korea, on the other.

Neither South Korea nor China participate in Washington’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a multinational program designed in 2003 to interdict shipments of weapons-related material to keep it from terrorists.

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