Diplomatic consultations continue in various Asian cities to try to decide how to respond to North Korea's July 5 missile tests. The U.N. Security Council has delayed a vote on a Japan-sponsored sanctions resolution to allow more time for diplomacy. There are diverging views on what to do, with South Korea particularly displeased by Japan's stance.
In Japan, the government says diplomacy is fine, but sanctions are still needed to send a clear message to North Korea that its July 5 missile tests are not acceptable.
"We have just decided to put on hold for 24 hours or maximum 48 hours for the Chinese will come back with more concrete ideas about what North Korea has had to say to China," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Tomohiko Taniguchi.
Japan says it has obtained seven co-sponsors for its resolution, including the United States, Britain, and France.
But China, which has veto power in the Security Council, and South Korea oppose sanctions. The Security Council delayed a vote Monday to allow a Chinese delegation to talk to the North Koreans in Pyongyang.
U.S. envoy Christopher Hill continues his emergency Asia mission, which began last week after the missile launch. He flew back to Beijing from Tokyo to see how Chinese efforts are progressing.
"Obviously, we are in a rather crucial period. … There was a … I think a very important decision to postpone the actual vote on a resolution because the Chinese government had an important diplomatic mission going on," said Hill. "So, we want to be in close consultation with the Chinese government."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Beijing is gravely concerned about North Korea's tests, but sanctions would be "an over-reaction."
Jiang tells reporters that a resolution imposing sanctions would harm peace and stability in the region, increase tensions and make it more difficult to get North Korea to return to six-party talks on ending its nuclear programs.
South Korean officials struck out at Japan after some politicians in Tokyo raised the idea of developing the ability to attack North Korean missile bases.
In Seoul, presidential spokesman Jung Tae-ho accused the Japanese of trying to revert to the early 20th century, when Japan was the colonial master of the Korean peninsula.
Jung says South Korea will oppose, what he called, Japan's arrogant and reckless behavior, which he says intensifies the crisis on the Korean peninsula and serves as an excuse to re-militarize Japan.
That criticism has put Japanese officials on the defensive, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Taniguchi stressing that talk of a Japanese attack on North Korea is purely hypothetical.
"The United States military is the one that is equipped with offensive capacity. The Japanese Self Defense Forces are not," he added.
The frantic round of Asian diplomacy began after communist North Korea test-fired seven missiles, including a long range Taepodong-2. All fell into the Sea of Japan.