Japanese and U.S. diplomats say they still want a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea for its July 5th missile tests - even as the two nations cooperate in efforts to get Pyongyang back to international talks on its nuclear weapons programs.
Japan and the United States on Monday presented a united front in calling for North Korea to be punished for last week's missile tests.
While a high-level delegation of Chinese diplomats arrived in Pyongyang for talks with North Korean officials, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill met here with Foreign Minister Taro Aso and other Japanese diplomats.
Afterwards, Hill told reporters that Tokyo and Washington are resolute in favoring economic sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.
"We believe that both governments understand the importance of speaking with one voice on this matter.… We want to very much keep focused on staying together, and I would assess the U.S.-Japanese cooperation in this regard as truly excellent."
However, China has called sanctions counter-productive, and is threatening to use its veto in the Security Council - a move that would fracture the broader unity that the U.S. and Japan are seeking.
The Chinese delegation is in Pyongyang to try to convince the North Koreans to return to stalled six-party talks on the North's nuclear programs.
However, Hill, who was in Beijing last week conferring with Chinese officials, suggested that the Chinese have reason to be frustrated with their long-time allies. He said he had learned that the Chinese had explicitly warned the North Koreans
against launching the missiles.
"China very explicitly, very clearly, told North Korea,'Don't do this,' and they went ahead and did that. That is a fact, that I am sure the Chinese are thinking about very hard."
Hill arrived in Tokyo after visiting Beijing and Seoul. He is the chief U.S. envoy to the six-party talks, which include the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, the U.S. and China.
An agreement in principle was reached at the last round of the talks in September, under which North Korea would scrap its nuclear weapons programs in return for aid and security guarantees. But the talks then stalled.
Pyongyang refuses to return to the talks until Washington removes financial sanctions it imposed on a bank in Macau, which was allegedly helping North Korea launder
money from counterfeiting and other illicit activities.
Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Shinzo Abe, says diplomacy should not delay a vote on the sanctions resolution, which could come as early as Monday.
Abe says the U.N. resolution, introduced by Japan and supported by the United States, is needed to send a strong message to Pyongyang.