WASHINGTON – Japan and the United States agreed Wednesday to closely cooperate on pushing North Korea to address the nuclear, missile and abduction issues as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to meet with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un next month.
Meeting in Washington, Foreign Minister Taro Kono and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo affirmed the two allies will keep pressing North Korea to dismantle all weapons of mass destruction and missiles — including short- and medium-range missiles capable of hitting Japan — in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way, a Japanese official said.
Kono and Pompeo underscored the nations’ coordination in working for a resolution of Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, an issue Trump has promised to take up in the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, which is slated for June 12 in Singapore.
They also confirmed Washington and U.S. allies and partners will maintain pressure on Pyongyang until it takes concrete actions toward denuclearization.
Kono made similar affirmations during a separate meeting with Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton in the U.S. capital, according to the official.
Speaking to reporters after the meetings, Kono said the two sides discussed measures to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea.
“We have no differences in terms of (our wish for the) complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of (the North’s) nuclear weapons and missiles,” he said.
“We talked about what kind of agreement should be struck (at the U.S.-North Korea summit) in Singapore and what kind of actions (the two and other countries concerned) will take going forward,” he said.
The U.S. officials briefed their Japanese counterparts on communications between Washington and Pyongyang related to the abduction issue, according to Kono.
Speaking at the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier Wednesday, Pompeo said he “directly” raised human rights issues during his meeting with Kim earlier this month in Pyongyang, a sign that the top U.S. diplomat almost certainly referred to the abduction issue.
Japan officially lists 17 citizens as abduction victims and suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances. Five of the 17 were repatriated in 2002 and Pyongyang maintains that eight have died and the other four never entered the country.
On the planned dismantlement by North Korea of its only known underground nuclear test site, which is expected on Thursday or Friday, Kono said Pyongyang should have allowed access to the site to not only foreign journalists but nuclear experts.
North Korea has said it will hold a ceremony to mark the closure of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and that journalists from China, Russia, the United States, Britain and South Korea will be allowed to conduct on-the-spot coverage of the event.
“I hope the event will not end up being just a show, but will mark a step toward denuclearization,” Kono said.