National / Politics

Taro Kono plans U.S. trip in May to sound out Mike Pompeo before Trump-Kim summit

Kyodo

Foreign Minister Taro Kono is planning to visit the United States early next month to discuss North Korea policy with his incoming counterpart, Mike Pompeo, according to Japanese government sources.

Kono hopes to use the meeting to quickly get up to speed on the policy positions of incoming Secretary of State Pompeo, ahead of a first-ever summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that is expected to take place by early June.

Currently the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Pompeo is expected to play a central role in any forthcoming negotiations between the United States and North Korea, having met Kim in Pyongyang in recent weeks on Trump’s behalf.

Pompeo’s nomination for secretary of state passed a Senate committee vote on Monday, all but ensuring that he will be confirmed by a full Senate vote in the coming days.

In the upcoming meeting, Kono will likely seek to affirm with his new counterpart that pressure on North Korea must be maintained until it denuclearizes.

Kono wants to hear directly from Pompeo about his visit to North Korea and what Kim said to him there, the sources said Wednesday.

They are expected to discuss specific measures that can be taken to ensure that North Korea gets rid of all its missiles — not just the intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland, but also the shorter-range weapons that threaten Japan.

Kono also hopes that Pompeo will affirm the importance of the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, the sources said.

In addition to underscoring their intention to strengthen the bilateral security alliance for the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, the two men are also expected to exchange views on diplomatic issues involving China, Russia and the Middle East, the sources said.

Kono plans to visit Jordan on April 27 and is now considering flying from there directly to Washington, the sources said.

If Pompeo’s expected confirmation is delayed at the Senate, or if he plans to visit Japan or South Korea first, Kono may cancel his trip to Washington, the sources added.

Coronavirus banner