Clinton warns North Korea against missile launch


HILLARY CLINTON has urged North Korea not to carry out a threatened missile launch, warning that such a move would endanger prospects of a normalisation of relations with the United States.

Speaking in Japan during her first overseas visit as secretary of state, Mrs Clinton said that if Pyongyang wants to end its isolation, it must keep its promise to the Bush administration to end its nuclear programme.

“The possible missile launch that North Korea is talking about would be very unhelpful in moving our relationship forward,” she said.

“If North Korea abides by the obligations it has already entered into and verifiably and completely eliminates its nuclear programme, then there will be a reciprocal response certainly from the United States. It is truly up to the North Koreans.”

On Monday, North Korea marked the 67th birthday of its leader Kim Jong Il by declaring that it had a right to “space development” – a euphemism for its missile programme – and signalled that it was preparing a new rocket launch.

South Korean media have reported that the North has moved a long-range Taepodong-2 missile, capable of reaching US territory, to a launch site on the north-eastern coast of the country.

Washington has told Pyongyang that if it abandons its nuclear programme, the US will move towards normalising relations with a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War and offer energy and financial help to North Korea.

Mrs Clinton repeated President Barack Obama’s pledge to “reach out a hand to those with which we have differences, so long as they unclench their fists”, adding that the US will remain part of six-party talks with North Korea, along with Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.

The secretary of state reassured her Japanese hosts, however, that the US remains committed to the defence of its allies in the region, particularly Japan and South Korea.

She announced that Japanese prime minister Taro Aso will become the first foreign leader to meet Mr Obama in the White House next Tuesday.

Next week’s meeting between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies is expected to focus on the need for a co-ordinated global response to the financial and economic crises.

During a visit to Tokyo University yesterday, Mrs Clinton said the new administration was reviewing US policy towards Burma that could place less emphasis on the sanctions imposed by the Bush administration on the military government.

“We are looking at what steps we could take that might influence the current Burmese government and we are also looking for ways that we could more effectively help the Burmese people,” she said.

“I’ve spoken with many people already who are strong supporters of the Burmese people who have said ‘let’s look to see if there’s a better way’, so we are doing that. And I hope we will be able to arrive at a policy that can be more effective.”