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Japan: 'Desperate' North Korea bowing to economic pressure

By Elizabeth Shim
Japan: 'Desperate' North Korea bowing to economic pressure
Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday that North Korea is acting in response to sanctions squeezing the regime. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

March 6 (UPI) -- Japan sees the inter-Korea talks as a sign of North Korean "desperation" but is also waiting to hear from the South Korean government regarding the latest developments, according to a Japanese press report.

Kyodo News reported Tuesday Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said, "Out of desperation, North Korea is trying out a charm diplomacy."

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Kono said the latest developments in inter-Korea détente are the outcome of pressure on Pyongyang.

"The effects of economic sanctions are coming into view," Kono said, adding, "We look forward to hearing the proper explanation from the South Korean side" regarding the meeting with Kim Jong Un.

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The top Japanese diplomat told reporters he cannot provide further comments regarding a response to North Korea but that Tokyo is "closely coordinating with the United States and South Korea."

Kim extended an unprecedented welcome to a top South Korean delegation on Monday, local time, when he spent more than four hours with officials Chung Eui-yong, and Seoul's spy agency chief Suh Hoon.

North Korea state media has characterized the meeting as a gesture of the "greatest hospitality" from the North Korean leader that signals a "major commitment of unimaginable proportions."

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South Korea said Tuesday the North expressed interest in bringing up the issue of denuclearization with the United States.

But as recently as February Pyongyang was likely operating its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, according to U.S. analysts.

On 38 North, Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu said the reactor showed "signs of operation as indicated by steam vapor plumes emanating from the generator hall and river ice melt near the reactor."

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"If the reactor is operating again, as the evidence suggests, it means North Korea has resumed production of plutonium presumably for its nuclear weapons program," they wrote.

The analysts added that although "no cooling water discharges have been observed," an indicator of "normal" nuclear operations, North Korea could still be concealing operational status by extending its cooling water pipeline.

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