Abe, U.N. chief Ban vow cooperation over Syria, North Korea

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have agreed to cooperate on eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons and on tackling North Korea’s nuclear threat and humanitarian issues, a Japanese official said.

During their talks Wednesday in New York, Abe said his administration supports efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and that it will assist refugees fleeing the country’s civil war. Ban expressed hope for Japan’s continued contribution to improving the Syrian humanitarian crisis, the official said.

Syria has agreed to a U.S.-Russian deal to place chemical weapons under international supervision, but the United Nations has yet to draft a resolution amid differences over whether it should refer to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter to allow use of force.

On North Korea, Abe stressed it is necessary to continue applying pressure and take concrete action on Pyongyang to halt its nuclear development and to fully account for Japanese nationals its regime abducted in the 1970s and ’80s. Abe has pledged to resolve the long-standing issue.

Abe expressed hope that a U.N. commission that visited Japan in late August to investigate human rights violations in North Korea will draft a meaningful report, while Ban expressed sympathy and hope that Tokyo will continue to play a leading role in handling the issue, the official said.

Despite recent remarks by Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, emphasizing the need for Japan to adopt “a correct view of history,” the two did not discuss the issue, according to the official.

Japan’s ties with China and South Korea have badly frayed since last year over territorial disputes and divergent perceptions of wartime history and the actions of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida attended a series of events on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, where delegates discussed a number issues beyond 2015, the target date for achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

Stressing health issues and Japan’s expertise, Abe said at one such event that his government will promote universal health coverage for basic medical services.

In June, leaders and delegates from Africa and Japan huddled at the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development and agreed that the private sector should lead growth on the continent, while ramping up work to improve living standards and empower women in Africa.