Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Tuesday with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad to cooperate in addressing North Korea’s nuclear and missile development as well as the abduction of Japanese citizens.
“I will closely cooperate with Mr. Mahathir to send out a powerful message to North Korea,” Abe told a joint press conference after the two leaders’ meeting, which came as the U.S. and North Korean leaders held their first summit in Singapore to discuss how to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
Expressing his hope for the success of the summit, Abe also said, “North Korea has rich (natural) resources and a diligent workforce. It will have a bright future if it treads the right path.”
Mahathir said he hopes the United States and North Korea “accept the fact that, in negotiations, both sides must be prepared to give in certain issues if they expect to reach a good conclusion.”
“Expecting only one side to give in will not result in a very positive conclusion,” he added.
Mahathir, 92, who was prime minister between 1981 and 2003, returned to power in last month’s general election following corruption accusations against his predecessor Najib Abdul Razak.
In an attempt to boost bilateral cooperation, Abe said Japan will upgrade Malaysia’s “Look East Policy” to promote education exchange, human resource development and the transfer of science technologies. Mahathir hailed Abe’s resolve.
Mahathir introduced the bilateral cooperative initiative, which brought some 16,000 Malaysians to Japan to study, in 1981.
Mahathir’s decision to make Japan his first destination since retaking office is seen by some analysts as a sign of his willingness to set distance from China, which has massively invested in Malaysia and consequently increased the Southeast Asian nation’s external debt.
Monday, Mahathir told an international seminar in Tokyo that Malaysia will reduce its debt to China while maintaining trade ties with the country.