JERUSALEM - Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused North Korea on Wednesday of plotting to run arms to Hamas and Hizbullah, and said Pyongyang was part of a new “axis of evil” along with Syria and Iran.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Tokyo, Lieberman said, “This axis of evil that includes North Korea, Syria and Iran, it’s the biggest threat to the entire world – not to Israel, but to the entire world.”
He added that “we saw this kind of cooperation only two or maybe three months ago with the North Korean plane in Bangkok, with huge numbers of different weapons, with the intention to smuggle these weapons to Hamas and Hizbullah.”
On December 12, Thai authorities, acting on a tip from a foreign source, seized a cargo plane in Bangkok full of more than 40 tons of weaponry, including missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. The Thai Air Force said the plane had arrived from Pyongyang.
According to flight documents seized aboard the aircraft, the cargo was headed for Teheran, where officials denied they were trying to import weapons from North Korea. Iran is a prime supporter of Hamas and Hizbullah and has supplied both groups with weapons and training in the past.
Lieberman also told reporters that Israel was ready to begin direct negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions, and dismissed the need for so-called proximity talks.
“We have our experience, and we signed two peace agreements with our neighbors – with Jordan and Egypt – as a result of direct talks, not proximity talks,” he said.
On Tuesday, Lieberman met with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and spoke about Syrian-North Korean cooperation, which he said posed a threat to stability in the Middle East as well as Southeast Asia.
Lieberman told Hatoyama the cooperation was not based on economic interests, but on the the development of weapons of mass destruction and the smuggling of arms.
A source at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem would not comment on Wednesday on how Hatoyama had responded to Lieberman’s statements.
However, the source added that while the foreign minister had not presented the Japanese leader with documents or evidence showing that North Korea was plotting to run arms to Hamas or Hizbullah, his contentions had not been made lightly.
Hatoyama reportedly told Lieberman about the importance he saw in the advancement of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Lieberman invited Hatoyama to visit Israel and said Japan-Israel cooperation was important for the security and economy of the world, as well as the development of alternative energy.
Lieberman also expressed gratitude for Japan’s support of Israel’s acceptance this week to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and of the 1917 Balfour Declaration that called for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
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