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N. Korea: Japan, U.S. plotting invasion

From Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

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(CNN) -- North Korea has accused Japan of aspiring to rule a "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" beginning with an invasion of Korea with the assistance of the United States.

Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's state newspaper, said Sunday the Japanese had joined with the United States' "vicious hostile policy" toward North Korea and that the "military threat" they perceive from the Koreans "is a far-fetched allegation fabricated by themselves."

The paper's comments followed a day of talks in Washington between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their Japanese counterparts on the two countries' security relationship.

The two countries urged North Korea to return to six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear program.

North Korea's use of the term "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" harkens back to Japan's brutal domination of East Asia before and during World War II. The term described how Tokyo, under the guise of ridding the region of Western influence, set up puppet governments to establish Japanese hegemony and plunder foreign resources.

"We share a concern about events on the Korean Peninsula," Rice said at a news conference following the Saturday meetings.

She added, "It is really time for the North Koreans to take seriously that concern" and return to six-party talks.

A joint statement issued after the meeting said North Korea's nuclear program "represents a direct threat to the peace and stability" in Asia.

The talks come a week after North Korea said it had no intention of returning to the negotiating table for six-party talks and declared that the nation has nuclear weapons and is prepared to build more.

North Korea also said recently it was no longer interested in holding bilateral talks with the United States, which it has long said would be a key condition in returning to the six-party talks.

Rice said the United States hoped a top Chinese official in Pyongyang this weekend would urge North Korea to return to talks and deliver the message "there can be no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula."

But Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said his country wanted China to be more assertive in getting North Korea to return to the talks, using its influence as North Korea's closest ally in the region, rather than simply acting as a "mediator."

Saturday's talks reaffirmed the U.S.-Japan security relationship at the cornerstone of stability in East Asia.

In the joint statement, the ministers "reaffirmed the continuing strength and vitality of U.S.-Japan security arrangements, and expressed confidence in their capacity to deter and address challenges to regional peace and stability."

"I can't think of a time when the relationship has been closer or more constructive," Rumsfeld said at the news conference.

"We value that in the United States and benefit from it and certainly understand that it remains a key pillar of peace and stability in the Asian Pacific region and a benefit to the world."

The officials also addressed China's growing military capabilities and urged China to improve "transparency" of its military affairs.

The joint statement also declared Taiwan a common security issue and called for peaceful dialogue of tension across the Taiwan Strait.

The joint statement said the United States and Japan sought to "develop a cooperative relationship with China, welcoming the country to play a responsible and constructive role regionally as well as globally."

Rumsfeld acknowledged that China had been "increasing its military capabilities in a fairly significant way," and said the United States would work with countries in the region, including Japan, South Korea, Australia and India, to help establish peace.

Various arrangements and alliances between the United States and its allies in the region would constitute a "network of relationships" that will encourage peace and stability, Rumsfeld said.

Dan Blumenthal, a former Pentagon official with the American Enterprise Institute, said, "China has been investing very heavily on ballistic missiles that they deploy across the (Taiwan) Strait as a tool of coercion and intimidation. They have some five- to six-hundred missiles pointed at Taiwan, but it concerns other regional actors as well, not just Taiwan."

Of the U.S.-Japanese declaration Blumenthal said, "Taiwan will welcome this. Taiwan will feel less isolated regionally. And usually, historically, we have found that when Taiwan is less isolated, it is less willing to act rashly ... the notion that the U.S. and Japan care about Taiwan's security will pave the way for a decrease in tensions in the Straits over time."

China quickly criticized the United States and Japan for meddling in its internal security affairs relating to Taiwan. China's Foreign Ministry issued a response through Xinhua, the official China news agency.

"Chinese government and people resolutely opposes the United States and Japan in issuing any bilateral document concerning China's Taiwan, which meddles the internal affairs of China, and hurts China's sovereignty," the Foreign Ministry said.

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