Yohei Kono, a former Lower House speaker and the father of Foreign Minister Taro Kono, criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday for what he called the poor handling of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, urging him to work more closely with China.
The United States, Japan and South Korea have been eager to cooperate in putting pressure on Pyongyang, but “have not tried to proceed with policies (against the North) with China,” Kono, a former foreign minister, told the Japan National Press Club.
“It is obvious that China is the country that can persuade North Korea as China accounts for most of North Korea’s trade. Even if the United States imposes tougher economic sanctions, their effectiveness would hinge on China’s moves,” Kono said.
Unless China takes part in compiling proposed sanctions against Pyongyang, “the situations will not get better” if Washington, Tokyo and Seoul seek Beijing’s cooperation only after punitive measures are determined, Kono added.
Japan has asked China to play a key role in dealing with North Korea but at the same time has sought to form a “coalition against China” with nations including India and Australia amid China’s growing assertiveness in regional waters, Kono said.
Although Abe’s government “has to seriously consider which countries should join hands to resolve North Korean issues,” insufficient effort has been made to forge an effective alliance with China on the issue, Kono said.
As chief Cabinet secretary in 1993, Kono issued a landmark apology to Korean “comfort women” forced to provide sex at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II. As he has emphasized the importance of diplomacy with neighboring nations, Kono is also known as a pro-China politician.
Abe’s appointment of his son as foreign minister in early August raised hope for improvement of relations between Japan and China, which have been shaken by a territorial dispute.
Kono, however, said, “China’s concerns have not waned over the politics of Abe,” who has called for vigilance against Beijing’s assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas.
Asked about how he evaluates the performance of his son as foreign minister, Kono only said, “It is difficult to make a comment.”