The defense ministers of Japan and the United States are considering holding talks on the North Korean nuclear issue at the end of the month before the landmark U.S.-North Korea summit in June, Defense Ministry sources said Saturday.
The proposed meeting in Hawaii would likely see Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirming their policy of maintaining maximum pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs, the sources said.
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are set to meet on June 12 in Singapore in what would be the first-ever summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
Onodera intends to ask Mattis to urge Pyongyang to abandon not only intercontinental ballistic missiles targeting the United States, but also short- and midrange ballistic missiles capable of hitting South Korea and Japan, the sources said.
Onodera is expected to leave for Hawaii on May 29 as Mattis will likely take part in a ceremony there to mark the change of command at the U.S. Pacific Command at the end of the month. Its current commander, Adm. Harry Harris, is set to be appointed the new U.S. ambassador to South Korea.
Onodera and Mattis, who previously met on April 20 in Washington to discuss North Korean, are also both set to take part in Asia’s premier security forum, the Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore from June 1.
“Ahead of the U.S.-North Korea summit, it’s more effective to demonstrate a solid Japan-U.S. alliance in Hawaii, rather than on the margins of a busy international conference,” a senior Defense Ministry official said, referring to the forum.
If arrangements for a meeting in Hawaii do not work out, Onodera plans to hold the bilateral talks in Singapore, the sources said.
Arrangements are also being made for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to meet with Trump before the summit, government sources said.