Monday, October 23, 2006

Japan Monitoring North Korean Ships

Japan may deploy naval destroyers and surveillance aircraft to cooperate with the United States and other countries in proposed inspections of cargo vessels moving to and from North Korea. Tokyo was considering the deployment of several naval destroyers and P-3C patrol aircraft in the Tsushima Strait and waters northwest of Okinawa, Japan's largest daily, Yomiuri Shimbun, reported, citing an outline of a government plan. The Tsushima Strait lies between South Korea and Japan's western coast. Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force would provide information to the United States and other foreign forces deployed in the area if it spots a suspicious ship, the report said.An official from Japan's navy said he could not comment on the report. The U.N. Security Council approved sanctions against North Korea last week for its Oct. 9 nuclear test. The measures include trade bans and called for cargo inspections to halt weapons proliferation. The North has called the sanctions a declaration of war and warned of unspecified countermeasures if its sovereignty is violated. Tokyo and Washington agreed to begin talks about possible ship inspections following a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Ship inspections in international waters are a sensitive issue for Japan because of its pacifist constitution, which prohibits its armed forces from military operations abroad.

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