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Thursday, January 14, 1999 Published at 12:05 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

US warning over North Korea

William Cohen meets the Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi

The United States Defence Secretary, William Cohen, has warned that a strong deterrent is necessary to prevent North Korea from attacking its neighbours.

He was speaking after talks with the Japanese Foreign Minister, Masahiko Komura in Tokyo.

Mr Cohen said they had discussed the need for Japan, South Korea and America to co-operate in dealing with the challenges posed by Pyongyang.

He praised Japan for proposing that $8bn of its latest defence spending budget go on research work on a new missile defence program.

Mr Cohen later arrived in South Korea, where he will hold talks on Friday with his South Korean counterpart, Chun Yong-taek. The visit to South Korea precedes crucial weekend talks in Geneva between US and North Korean officials about an underground construction site.

Dispute over inspections

[ image: Troops on display, but underground sites remain hidden]
Troops on display, but underground sites remain hidden
While in Japan, Mr Cohen repeated demands that North Korea allow Americans repeated access to the site, which Washington suspects is being used as a secret nuclear facility.

Mr Cohen rejected for the second time a North Korean demand for compensation in return for the proposed inspection.

North Korea, which has denied the work is nuclear-related, said it would allow a single visit to the site - but only if Washington pays out $300m compensate for the "insult" to the country's national pride and sovereignty.

After a two-hour meeting with Japan's Defence Minister, Hosei Norota, Mr Cohen said that the issue had not reached crisis point, but agreed to keep pressure on Pyongyang to allow the inspections.

Mr Cohen said the demand for $300m amounted to a "pretty expensive peek".

Nuclear agreement in jeopardy

North Korea has threatened to abandon a 1994 accord to dismantle its nuclear programme, in return for $5bn worth of free fuel and safer nuclear power reactors

Pyongyang says the United States position over the dispute remains unclear.

The official communist party newspaper accused Washington of failing to implement its side of the bargain, which included a promise of economic aid and the lifting of sanctions.

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