National / Politics

Japan, Finland affirm cooperation on North Korea, Arctic policy

Kyodo

The foreign ministers of Japan and Finland agreed Wednesday to work together in tackling North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, including through the full implementation of U.N. sanctions.

“I want us to closely coordinate with each other to deal with North Korea and other international challenges,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono said during joint comments to the press ahead of a dinner meeting with Finnish counterpart Timo Soini.

Soini said North Korea’s “actions cannot be accepted,” and Japan and Finland will face international issues together as democracies that believe in multilateral cooperation and the rule of law.

Kono and Soini affirmed that they will work together in pursuit of the early signing and entry into force of a free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Negotiations toward the deal were finalized late last year.

They also agreed to cooperate on policy relating to the Arctic region, the ministry said. Finland currently chairs the Arctic Council, composed of eight countries in the region, while Japan is an observer.

The ministers noted they want to make good use of next year’s centennial anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties, the ministry said.

At a press conference in Tokyo ahead of the meeting, Soini expressed strong concern about Russian expansionism and the nuclear threat presented by North Korea, and warned that the erosion of postwar norms will see the world “sleepwalking towards the abyss once again.”

Soini urged Japan to continue to work with Finland to uphold the international order as basic freedoms fall under increasing pressure in many countries.

“International treaties are under challenge, or are being interpreted in ways which risk making them meaningless,” Soini said.

He said the interruption of norms underpinning international trade will hurt export-dependent economies in both Asia and Europe.

“I believe we should focus on making the present order more effective and more democratic; reform existing institutions, not destroy them,” Soini said.

Soini is the former leader of the populist Finns Party, previously known as the True Finns. He split from the party last year after the party became the second largest in Finland’s parliament. He said he was considering not standing in the country’s next election and retiring from politics.

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