President Bush, Japan's Prime Minister Agree on Pushing U.N. Sanctions on North Korea

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush have agreed to cooperate in pushing for U.N. resolutions to impose sanctions on North Korea, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

During a 10-minute telephone conversation earlier Thursday, the two leaders "agreed that it is important for the intentional community to send a strong message to North Korea over its missile launch," the ministry statement said.

"They also agreed that Japan and the U.S. will stay in close contact and cooperate to issue a strong message by the U.N. Security Council," it said.

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In an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday, Japan sought condemnation of the North's launching of several missiles Wednesday, including a long-range Taepodong-2.

The tests came despite repeated warnings to North Korea from the West and its allies not to do so.

In New York, Japan, the U.S. and Britain pressed the U.N. Security Council to slap economic sanctions on North Korea, but faced opposition from Pyongyang allies Russia and China, who insisted diplomacy was the only way to resolve the crisis.

Japan later circulated a resolution that would ban any country from transferring funds, material and technology that could be used in North Korea's missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.

Japanese and U.S. defense chiefs also agreed on Wednesday to cooperate closely over their response to North Korea's missile tests.

Japan's defense chief Fukushiro Nukaga and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld agreed during a phone conversation to cooperate closely in intelligence gathering following Pyongyang's test launches, the Defense Agency said.

An agency spokesman said Thursday that the two countries are still on high level of alert in case of possible firing of more missile firing by North Korea.

North Korea test-launched a series of missiles including a long-range Taepodong on Wednesday, violating its own seven-year moratorium on such launches and defying stern international warnings of retaliation. The missiles apparently fell harmlessly into the Sea of Japan.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to cooperate on the North Korean missile issue in a telephone call, South Korean officials said.

Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok told the National Assembly that the two spoke early Thursday, and Roh's office issued a statement said they agreed to cooperate on diplomatic efforts.

The statement, however, did not mention efforts to prod the U.N. Security Council to take action against the North. Bush is seeking a strong international response to the tests, while Roh's government has called for "patient dialogue."

The presidential statement said the two "shared the view that North Korea's missile launches are a "grave provocative act" and agreed to closely cooperate to solve the issue through diplomatic efforts.

Roh's office also stressed the importance of cooperating with China, Japan and Russia — which also participate in international talks on ending the North's nuclear program — according to the statement.

That approach was echoed by Lee in his comments before lawmakers, in which he called for a meeting among the five countries trying to get the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions through the six-party talks.

"North Korea should quickly return to the six-way talks. But if it will not be case, it will be considerably useful" to convene the five, Lee said, referring to the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.