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Japan calls emergency security meeting

Filed on December 19, 2011

TOKYO — Japan called an emergency security meeting Monday to formulate its reaction to news of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

Minutes after the noon broadcast by Pyongyang’s official media, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda cancelled a speech and rushed back to his office where he held a meeting of senior ministers.

“I am aware that the report has been made. I have instructed that the facts be checked,” he told reporters after returning to his office.

He said he had ordered officials to beef up intelligence-gathering on North Korea, to work closely with the United States, China and South Korea, and to prepare for further unexpected developments.

Noda began chairing the emergency meeting an hour after the KCNA announcement. This was expected to be followed by a press conference by Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, the top government spokesman.

Defence Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said no unusual military moves by North Korea had been detected.

“I have told (military chiefs) to gather information and to be thorough about surveillance,” he said after meeting top brass.

“I have not received anything unusual so far.”

Kim’s death came as Pyongyang proposed the resumption of six-party denuclearisation talks.

Three of the six Japanese terrestrial national networks, including state broadcaster NHK, used regular afternoon news and information programmes to air the North Korean broadcast.

The announcement caught Japanese diplomats off guard, NHK said.

“We will react appropriately as we gather various information,” Shinsuke Sugiyama, the man in charge of Asian and Oceanian affairs, told NHK. Sugiyama is Japan’s top negotiator for the six-party talks, which group the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the United States.

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