WASHINGTON – Foreign Minister Taro Kono and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed Wednesday to urge North Korea to denuclearize in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” way while keeping existing U.N. sanctions in place.
After meeting with Pompeo, Kono told reporters that the two foreign ministers will meet again after a U.S.-North Korea summit slated for June 12 in Singapore.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday in Washington to reaffirm the importance of urging North Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Tokyo has asked Washington to raise the long-standing issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Pyongyang has claimed that the issue is settled.
Kono and Pompeo reaffirmed that the abduction issue will be taken up when Trump sits down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a Japanese government official said.
Pompeo, who served as director of the CIA, has taken the lead in U.S. negotiations with Pyongyang.
The foreign chiefs’ meeting came as the Trump administration is stepping up preparations for the summit with Kim, which Trump reinstated last week.
Despite Washington later clarifying that the United States will maintain its policy of putting “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang, Trump said Friday that he no longer wants to use the phrase.
“We understand it’s a message (to North Korea) that he hopes he won’t have to carry out (further) sanctions,” Kono told reporters after the meeting.
Tokyo is seeking to gather information and strengthen bilateral coordination in the run-up to the first-ever summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
After getting an update on U.S. preparations for the upcoming meeting, Kono, who also met with Pompeo in May, said the two have agreed to talk on the phone “if the situation changes.”
For the summit in Singapore, Japan is considering sending senior officials, including from the National Security Secretariat, government sources said Wednesday.
The lineup may include officials from the Cabinet Secretariat’s division dealing with the North Korean abduction issue, the sources said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that the lineup has yet to be determined.
Kenji Kanasugi, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, will likely go to the Southeast Asian country, according to the sources.