Israeli minister in Japan: Iran may become ‘tomorrow’s North Korea’

Yisrael Katz calls for Japanese support in changing nuclear deal; says Tokyo showed ‘great interest’ in regional rail proposal

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, center right, points to a map during a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Tara Kono, left, during an official visit to Japan, October 24, 2017. (Courtesy)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, center right, points to a map during a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Tara Kono, left, during an official visit to Japan, October 24, 2017. (Courtesy)

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) on Monday urged Japan to back revisions to the Iran nuclear deal, warning that Tehran could follow in the footsteps of rogue nuclear state North Korea if not contained.

Katz met with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono during an official visit to Japan.

“Iran must be stopped today so that it doesn’t become the North Korea of tomorrow,” said Katz, who is also transportation minister, according to a statement from his ministry.

“Japan, like Israel, stands on the front line against North Korea as Israel stands on the front line against Iran,” Katz said. “The lesson learned from North Korea is that it is forbidden to let a dictatorship obtain nuclear capabilities and Iran should be prevented from obtaining missile ability that can threaten the region and the whole world.”

The nuclear agreement, known in the US as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was signed between Iran and six world powers in 2015, and saw the lifting of crippling economic sanctions in return for Tehran accepting measures to prevent it from producing nuclear weapons before the deal’s expiration in 2025.

Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposed the deal at the time and support US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to walk away from the agreement signed by his predecessor if it was not amended.

Defying international pressure, North Korea has developed nuclear capabilities and detonated six nuclear test blasts alongside a series of ballistic missile tests that demonstrated its ability to hit targets as far away as the US. Iran has also vowed to continue improving its ballistic missiles, which Netanyahu has stressed could be mounted with nuclear warheads.

Kono said Japan sees the connection between the Iranian threat to Israel and the North Korean threat to Japan. He said his country will support monitoring the nuclear agreement, as well as additional measures against Iran’s activities that destabilize the region.

Katz discussed with Kono the possibility of increasing Japanese involvement in the Middle East and of Tokyo assisting in achieving peace and stability in the region.

The two ministers agreed to set up a joint inter-government team to advance Katz’s Tracks for Peace project of regional transportation, which envisions plans to connect Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan, the Gulf states, and even Iraq via an extended railroad network. The Japanese showed great interest in the initiative, the statement from Katz’s office said.

“The promotion of political and strategic cooperation between the two countries and the mobilization of Japan’s support for important regional initiatives are significant in this visit,” Katz said. “Especially in its activity against Iran’s nuclear program and advancement in ballistic missiles”

Katz’s visit was set to continue Wednesday with a meeting with the Japanese envoy to the Middle East and intelligence officials.

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