Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned Thursday that North Korea’s offer of denuclearization talks with the United States could be a ploy to play for time, and stressed the need for Pyongyang to take “concrete” steps.
In his first public comments since an apparent diplomatic breakthrough between North and South Korea, Abe said that talking for the sake of talking was “meaningless.”
“I’ve repeatedly said that we have to create a situation of putting maximum pressure on North Korea so that the North wants to have talks with us,” Abe told members of the Diet.
“However … it is true that the North has in the past earned time to develop nuclear capabilities and missiles” during periods of negotiation, Abe cautioned.
“Talks for the sake of talks are meaningless and we should never loosen sanctions just because North Korea is open to talks,” he added.
In the latest chapter of a rapid, Olympics-driven rapprochement on the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang has said it would consider giving up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees.
However, analysts have warned that any path to a U.S.-North Korea deal over nuclear weapons is fraught with danger and uncertainty.
Japan, a close U.S. ally in the region, is in the direct firing line of North Korean missiles and saw two fly over its territory in 2017, sparking outrage and lifting tensions to fever pitch.
Despite the apparent recent detente, Abe said Japan’s position was unchanged: “North Korea has to show concrete actions toward denuclearization by committing to abandon its nuclear program via complete, verifiable and irreversible means.”
Abe said he was looking forward to a briefing from a South Korean envoy about his talks with the North when the envoy visits Japan next week.