National / Politics

Abe and Trump agree to maintain pressure on North Korea until it’s willing to give up its nuclear program

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed in telephone talks Wednesday night to continue to put pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs.

Abe told reporters after the conversation — which lasted more than an hour — that he and Trump affirmed they will maintain the pressure until North Korea seeks dialogue on the basis of giving up its nuclear program.

“Dialogue for the sake of dialogue would be meaningless,” Abe said. “We talked thoroughly about what we should do from here on to make the denuclearization of North Korea a reality.”

He also said the two confirmed the unshakable bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance in the face of the North Korea threat. A senior government official said later that Abe and Trump shared an understanding of the importance of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises.

Abe’s conversation with Trump, the second this month, followed a display of unity between North and South Korea at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

It came amid concern in Tokyo that the thaw between the two Koreas could compromise efforts to maximize diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang and lead to the start of dialogue on North Korea’s terms, leading to effective acceptance of the state as a nuclear power.

Ahead of the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday, Abe held talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and confirmed the two countries will continue to work in a trilateral manner with the United States to maximize pressure on North Korea.

But there are concerns in the Abe administration that South Korea may head into dialogue with North Korea on its own following a meeting between Moon and a high-ranking delegation from Pyongyang.

The delegation’s visit to South Korea culminated in an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for Moon to visit Pyongyang for talks.

The united front between Tokyo and Washington also appears to be under scrutiny after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence suggested in a recent interview that the United States is open to holding talks with North Korea while maintaining the “maximum pressure campaign.”

Since the interview Pence gave the Washington Post aboard Air Force Two on his way home from the Olympics, Abe and members of his Cabinet have insisted there is no change to the position shared by Tokyo and Washington. They have maintained that dialogue must not be held with North Korea until it takes concrete steps toward denuclearization.

When Abe and Trump last spoke on the phone on Feb. 2, they confirmed they would continue working together with South Korea to put pressure on North Korea to abandon the weapons programs.

Trump meanwhile also said Wednesday that he asked Abe for increased investment by Japanese companies and to open more plants in the United States.

Speaking later in a meeting with members of Congress on infrastructure, Trump said he made the request during telephone talks with Abe earlier on Wednesday.

“They announced, as you know, a number of plants are coming into Michigan and other states. But we want them to bring in more,” Trump said, in reference to Japanese manufacturers.

“He (Abe) said they will do that,” Trump said. “We expect to have some announcements pretty soon.”

Trump has been calling for increased Japanese investment as a way of creating more jobs in the United States and reducing the U.S. deficit with Japan.

On Jan. 10, Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. said they will build a new $1.6 billion car plant in Huntsville, Alabama, with an eye on starting operations in 2021 and creating up to 4,000 jobs.