BEIJING – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday signaled that Japan would likely help shoulder the costs of North Korea’s denuclearization under a potential international funding framework aimed at eliminating Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
“As we stand to benefit from denuclearization, we must think about such matters,” Abe said on a Yomiuri Telecasting Corp. program, in the wake of the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit earlier in the week that ended with an affirmation of Pyongyang’s commitment to the denuclearization process.
Amid mixed views on the outcome of the meeting in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the international community is now looking at the specifics of how their agreement would actually rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons.
Abe said that “some kind of international agreement is conceivable,” referring to the possibility of a global funding body and citing as well a past agreement.
The prime minister said he envisions the creation of an organization specifically for the denuclearization of the North as a way of moving forward on the issue. At the same time, he said this would not be tantamount to directly funding North Korea.
Under the Agreed Framework signed in 1994 between the United States and North Korea, Pyongyang was required to freeze and eventually dismantle its weapons-grade nuclear facilities in exchange for being provided with two light-water reactors for power generation.
Toward that end, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was formed the following year, with Japan becoming a core member. Of the $4.6 billion project, Tokyo pledged $1 billion. The project, however, was eventually scrapped after the North Korean nuclear issue resurfaced.
Japan, for its part, is trying to weigh how to tackle the issue of shouldering the costs for North Korea’s denuclearization, as it seeks to address Pyongyang’s past abductions of Japanese.
On settling this issue, which includes the return of the abductees, Abe said that Kim “needs to make a big decision.”
North Korea’s official Pyongyang Broadcasting Station, however, repeated Friday that the abduction issue has “already been settled,” according to the Tokyo-based Radio Press news agency.
It is the first time North Korean media have reiterated the government’s official line on the sensitive issue since the summit between Trump and Kim.
Japan officially lists 17 citizens as having been abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, and suspects that North Korea was involved in many more disappearances. Five of the 17 were repatriated in 2002, with Pyongyang maintaining that eight died and four others never entered the country.