TORONTO - Japan and Canada on Saturday pledged to maintain “maximum pressure” on North Korea to compel it to give up its nuclear and missile programs, judging that Pyongyang’s decision to suspend nuclear tests and long-range missile launches was not sufficient to meet the demands of the international community.
Meeting on the eve of a two-day meeting of the Group of Seven foreign ministers in Toronto, Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Canadian counterpart, Chrystia Freeland, affirmed they will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Kono and Freeland vowed to maintain pressure and sanctions at the maximum level so as to force North Korea to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and missiles in a complete, verifiable and irreversible fashion, the ministry said.
They also agreed to cooperate in preventing Pyongyang from evading U.N. sanctions through ship-to-ship cargo transfers in international waters.
At the outset of the meeting, Kono and Freeland signed a bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement — a sharing pact for defense supplies — to strengthen cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the Canadian Armed Forces.
North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are likely to be high on the agenda at the G-7 meeting, which comes before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s planned talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next Friday, and with U.S. President Donald Trump in late May or early June.
The G-7 ministers will gather a day after North Korea announced it will suspend nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, as well as dismantle its only known nuclear test site.
The move by Kim, however, falls short of the demand by the United States, Japan and other countries to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, including short- and midrange missiles capable of hitting South Korea and Japan.
Speaking to reporters, Kono said Pyongyang’s announcement, which some critics see as an attempt to win relief from U.N. sanctions, will not alter the agreement by the international community, including the G-7, to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.
Aside from North Korea, the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States plan to discuss the Trump administration’s push to revise the Iran nuclear deal.
The agreement was struck in 2015 by Iran and six major powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. However, Trump has threatened to pull Washington out if an agreement with European allies to revamp the deal cannot be reached before the May 12 deadline set by the U.S. president.
Trump has called for greater access by international inspectors to Iran’s military sites, constraining its ballistic missile program and eliminating so-called sunset provisions under which limits on its nuclear program start to expire after 10 years.
The G-7 ministers are also likely to take up the Syria crisis following the U.S.-led airstrikes earlier this month on sites associated with the country’s chemical weapons capabilities.
The military action by the United States, Britain and France came after the alleged use by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime of chemical weapons on Syrian citizens.