U.S. President Donald Trump promised Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in telephone talks earlier this month to consult with Japan before taking action — including military action — against North Korea, bilateral diplomatic sources said Wednesday.
Trump also indicated to Abe that the United States will tighten sanctions on Chinese firms doing business with North Korea if China does not cooperate in addressing the threat presented by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, the sources said.
That suggests Trump is prepared to get actively involved in inhibiting further provocations by Pyongyang while considering the U.S. alliance with Japan, which has grave concerns about the risks a U.S. attack on North Korea could pose.
In telephone conversations on April 6 and Sunday, the leaders agreed that North Korea’s nuclear tests and repeated ballistic missile launches present a grave security threat and affirmed that they will work with each other and with South Korea on the matter.
Abe said he “highly appreciates” Trump’s assertion that all options are “on the table” in dealing with North Korea. The Trump administration has suggested this includes military action.
According to the sources, Trump showed Abe that he understands the risks Japan would face from a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
While telling Abe that the United States stands with its ally Japan “100 percent,” Trump signaled his intention to consult with Japan before taking action on the North, the sources said.
The sources also said the president sought Abe’s agreement with the Trump administration’s security and diplomacy doctrine of “peace through strength” — an about-turn from the “strategic patience” approach of his predecessor, Barack Obama, in dealing with North Korea.
Ahead of the discussions, the Japanese government had requested the United States talk with Japan at the working level before mounting any attack on North Korea, out of a concern that retaliation could directly affect Japan’s safety.
The leaders also confirmed the necessity of urging China to get more involved in dealing with the North, the sources said.
After his summit last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump shared with Abe that he had told the Chinese leader that Washington has not ruled out taking unilateral action if no concrete moves are made toward denuclearizing Pyongyang, the sources said.
According to the sources, Trump also said the United States has fresh economic sanctions ready for the North, including asset freezes and stronger sanctions on Chinese firms that do financial transactions with the hermit state.