WASHINGTON – Japan has requested a set of additional preconditions for U.S. President Donald Trump to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, including a promise from Pyongyang to resolve the abduction issue and to abandon midrange ballistic missiles capable of hitting Japan, diplomatic sources said Saturday.
Foreign Minister Taro Kono made the request in separate talks in Washington earlier this month with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Trump’s nominee for next secretary of state, and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, the sources said.
Kono also asked the U.S. officials to ensure that before Trump meets Kim in May for an unprecedented U.S.-North Korea summit, Pyongyang will promise to promote a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, accept International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and abolish chemical weapons, they said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to make a similar request concerning preconditions when he visits the United States in mid-April for talks with Trump.
Japan’s lobbying reflects concern that its own interests, such as the abduction issue related to North Korea’s kidnapping of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s and its development of midrange ballistic missiles, may get sidelined because the Trump-Kim summit appears primarily focused on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Senior U.S. officials appeared receptive to Kono’s request, according to the sources. But it may not be realistic to expect that the United States will be able to persuade the North to accept all of the preconditions raised by Japan.
According to the White House, the time and location of the summit have yet to be determined. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump will have talks with Kim “as planned” if Kim keeps his promises.
Sanders was referring to a message that Kim conveyed to Trump on March 8 through a South Korean envoy that said he is committed to denuclearization, will refrain from holding further nuclear weapons or missile tests, and recognize that regular military exercises between the United States and South Korea will continue.
“North Korea made several promises, and we hope that they would stick to those promises,” she told reporters on March 12. “And if so, the meeting will go on as planned.”
A Japanese government official said that even if Washington and Pyongyang make progress toward the North’s abandonment of ballistic missiles that could strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear warheads, North Korea would still pose a threat to Japan with its own missiles.
“We know it will be difficult to make North Korea accept all of the preconditions we raised,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But it is important to file such a request with the United States as we look into the future” of diplomacy toward North Korea, the official said.