September 2, 2006

Japan preparing nuclear accident-response

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is preparing a set of high-level
alert procedures to follow in the event of a nuclear power
plant accident abroad, out of concern that North Korea may
carry out an underground nuclear test, Kyodo News said on
Saturday, citing government sources.

The steps to be taken would be comparable to those Tokyo
has in place for a major earthquake or other large-scale
natural calamity within Japan, the sources told Kyodo.

If the government determines that Pyongyang has detonated a
nuclear device, Japan will declare an "emergency situation" and
a task force will be set up at the prime minister's official
residence, the sources said.

Government officials were not immediately available to
comment on the report.

Arrangements call for the task force, led by Deputy Chief
Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management Takeshi Noda, to
discuss specific steps such as investigating the impact of
radioactivity, they said.

On the diplomatic front, Japan would cooperate with the
United States and others to introduce a resolution to seek
sanctions against North Korea at the U.N. Security Council. It
would also take its own measures against the North including
blocking money remittances to the country.

ABC News of the United States cited U.S. officials in
mid-August saying Pyongyang may be preparing for an underground
test of a nuclear bomb.

North Korea test-fired a barrage of missiles on July 5.

The Japanese government has since been stepping up
surveillance and intelligence gathering, the sources said. At
present, however, "We have not detected any specific signs of a
nuclear test," one source told Kyodo.