National / Politics

Abe departs for U.N. meeting in New York

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday left for a five-day visit to New York where he plans to call for maintaining U.N. sanctions to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization.

Abe, fresh from winning another three-year term as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is scheduled to deliver a speech at the United Nations on Tuesday covering not only North Korea but also the promotion of free and rules-based trade as the world grapples with rising trade friction.

This week, a flurry of diplomatic activity is expected to take place as global leaders gather for the general debate of the General Assembly where they will seek to bring attention to issues of concern to them.

Abe, who has attended the U.N. session every year since 2013, will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his stay, which lasts until Thursday.

He will meet U.S. President Donald Trump for dinner Sunday and a summit Wednesday.

Japan has been coordinating closely with the United States toward the shared goal of denuclearizing the North, and Abe is expected to express support for Trump meeting with Kim Jong Un a second time.

On trade, however, doubt remains over whether Abe can leverage his rapport with Trump as the U.S. president seeks a bilateral deal to correct what he sees as imbalanced trade. Economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will meet Monday to lay the groundwork for the summit. The threat of higher U.S. tariffs on cars and auto parts imports is a major concern for Japan, where autos play a critical role in its economy.

Japan is expected to hold talks on a bilateral deal on condition that the United States holds off on imposing additional tariffs on the Japanese auto sector, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

Abe’s visit comes after the inter-Korea summit last week kept hopes alive for future progress on North Korea’s denuclearization. Kim has pledged to dismantle his country’s major nuclear complex if the United States takes reciprocal actions and to close its key missile test site in the presence of international experts.

The week will be replete with high-level meetings aimed at addressing international issues ranging from the Syrian civil war and the Rohingya refugee crisis to U.N. sustainable development goals and climate change.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono, at one such event in New York, is expected to stress the need for the early return of Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh to escape a military crackdown.

The number of such refugees has already topped 700,000, according to U.N. data.