Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono to visit U.S. this month to discuss North Korea


Foreign Minister Taro Kono is planning to visit the United States later this month for talks on dealing with North Korea once the Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics wrap up, an official said.

Kono is considering traveling to Washington for three days starting March 16 to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

During the talks with Tillerson, Kono will reaffirm the importance of maintaining maximum pressure on Pyongyang to compel it to give up its nuclear weapons, the official said Saturday.

They are also expected to affirm the resumption of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, which have been suspended until the Winter Paralympics end on March 18. North Korea always denounces such exercises as preparations for invasion.

Kono will be pushing for Japan, the United States and South Korea to maintain a united front as relations between the two Koreas show signs of thawing.

The North sent delegations to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Olympics and they met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited Moon to visit the North, while Pyongyang also expressed readiness to hold talks with Washington.

Japan is keeping a watchful eye on the recent shift in the North’s diplomatic policy and will continue pressuring North Korea until it is prepared to “seek dialogue” and give up its nuclear and missile development programs, the official said.