Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called North Korea's latest nuclear test "a grave threat to Japan's national security" and said his government will respond by imposing new sanctions against the reclusive state.
Japan lodged a strong protest through the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and also imposed restrictions on travel to North Korea by five deputy chiefs of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), which serves as North Korea's de facto embassy in Japan in the absence of full diplomatic relations.
Abe on Feb. 13 conferred by phone with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak for 20 minutes to discuss steps to punish North Korea for its underground nuclear test--the third to date--that was carried out the day before.
The two leaders agreed that Japan and South Korea will make coordinated efforts to adopt a new U.N. Security Council resolution against North Korea with additional sanctions.
"It is my hope that the U.N. Security Council will adopt a resolution that includes further tightened sanctions as soon as possible," Abe said.
"I share the recognition," Lee was quoted as saying. He made clear that Japan, the United States and South Korea should be at the forefront of measures taken by the international community to punish North Korea.
They also agreed that China, a longtime ally of North Korea, has an important role to play in reining in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
Abe also asked for Lee's cooperation on resolving the issue of Japanese nationals abducted in the 1970s and '80s by North Korea.
During a meeting of Japan's Security Council on Feb. 12, Abe instructed his ministers to keep a close watch on the situation with an eye to future developments.
He also called on them to enhance monitoring of possible radioactive fallout and to respond to North Korea's provocation in tandem with the international community.
Abe urged them to redouble efforts to ensure the safety and security of people in Japan.
In preparation for further nuclear tests, the government conferred with key allies on Feb. 12 on countermeasures against North Korea that include adopting a new U.N. Security Council resolution.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida spoke by telephone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and agreed to move quickly on adopting a resolution, including sanctions against North Korea.
Shinsuke Sugiyama, director-general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, also spoke by telephone with Wu Dawei, China's special representative on Korean Peninsula issues.
Abe on Feb. 12 met with U.S. Ambassador John Roos at the prime minister's office, where they agreed to reiterate the importance of the Japan-U.S. security alliance at a summit scheduled for late February.
"The statement of President Barack Obama, which said the United States remains steadfast in defense commitments to its allies, is significant," Abe said during the meeting.
According to a senior government official in Tokyo, North Korea informed the United States on Feb. 11 that it planned to conduct an underground nuclear test "as soon as preparations were complete." This information was conveyed later that day to the Japanese government, the official said.
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