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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Papers stunned by nuclear 'ploy'
North Korean troops in parade
North Korean admission has shocked many
North Korea's admission it still has a nuclear weapons programme has caused shock among Asia's press.

"Behind the facade of flexible diplomacy in dealing with Japan... North Korea persists in its dangerous manoeuvres," says Tokyo's right-leaning Sankei Shimbun.


Pyongyang must scrap its weapons programme immediately

Nihon Keizei Shimbun

The paper says Pyongyang has often instigated "reckless hostile acts" against Japan or South Korea, then turned to its "smile diplomacy" to soften the impact.

"Surprise concessions" on the return of abducted Japanese nationals do not mean that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is now an "amicable gentleman", the paper warns.

Tokyo should get tough on the abductions, and link economic aid to the nuclear issue, it says.

Brinkmanship

Professor Masao Okonogi points out in the centrist Manichi Shimbun that "it will now be difficult to differentiate between Iraq and North Korea".

"Theoretically, the US will now have to apply its pre-emptive strike doctrine to North Korea," he warns.

The centrist Asahi Shimbun also draws a parallel with Iraq.

While some believe the North's move is a "diplomatic ploy", the paper says it has given ammunition to Washington hawks.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Japan's Koizumi wants North Korea to stick to nuclear agreements
"It could lead to more calls from the United States that North Korea poses an even greater threat than Iraq," it says.

"Pyongyang's big surprise dims prospect of better ties," is another headline in the same paper.

The article says that while Japan-North Korea normalisation talks will go ahead, "Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions will assume equal priority with the abduction issue".

While a third article in Asahi Shimbun believes Washington will now try to get its allies to "adjust the speed" of their rapprochement with Pyongyang.

The threat posed by North Korea's nuclear programme to all its neighbours is stressed by leading business daily Nihon Keizei Shimbun.

"Pyongyang must scrap its weapons programme immediately, and allow international inspections of its nuclear facilities," the paper says.

It describes the acknowledgement of "nuclear ambition" amidst apparent efforts to improve Pyongyang's image as "a gambit of diplomatic brinkmanship".

Clouded sunshine

Papers in South Korea likewise do not mince words.

"Crisis brought about by North Korea's nuclear fraud," reads a headline in the country's largest daily, the often nationalistic and anti-North Choson Ilbo.

North's nuclear development is a grave threat to the South's security

Chungang Ilbo

The paper says the government's "sunshine policy" towards the North now faces a "serious dilemma". The second-largest daily, Chungang Ilbo, though usually moderate, makes the same point.

"Betrayed sunshine policy," is the headline of the main editorial.

It says the North's push for nuclear development as well as pursuing an appeasement strategy "makes us angry".

"North Korea's nuclear development... is a direct and grave threat to our security," the paper says.

The widely-read Tong-a Ilbo, despite its usual moderation, calls North Korea's nuclear development "shocking" and a "betrayal", adding that it poses a "clear, existing threat".

It criticises the government's response as "too moderate" and urges it to "strongly protest to North Korea".

However, the centre-left Hangyore, usually sympathetic toward the North, merely calls the disclosure "very surprising".

It warns against "hasty judgment and emotional reaction" and urges the government to "find out the facts".

The pro-government Taehan Maeil calls on North Korea to "completely stop" its nuclear development.

But it also highlights the importance of "positively and peacefully" resolving all issues through close co-operation with the US and Japan.

Maeil Kyongje, South Korea's most widely-read business paper, asks: "Is nuclear development the answer to Sunshine?".

The paper complains that the North's display of intentions to open up are "merely for show".

"It is most important to consolidate South Korea-US-Japan cooperation," the paper concludes.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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