National / Politics

Abe seeking to work with Trump ahead of second U.S.-North Korea summit

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday that Tokyo will work closely with Washington to tackle challenges related to North Korea in the run-up to the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later this month.

“It may be difficult to hold (direct) summit talks (with Trump) due to tight schedules, but through a phone conversation, we will closely coordinate our policies over the issues of nuclear weapons, missiles and abductions, the latter of which is the most important for Japan,” Abe told an Upper House committee, referring to past abductions of Japanese nationals by Pyongyang.

Trump took up the matter during his first summit with Kim in Singapore in June at Abe’s request. The prime minister has voiced his readiness to meet with the North Korean leader in person in an attempt to achieve a breakthrough on the issue.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the government hopes that agreements between Trump and Kim in June, including North Korea’s commitment to working toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, will be fully and swiftly implemented.

“There is no change in our position that Japan will continue to cooperate with the United States and South Korea, while closely collaborating with the international community, including China and Russia, to implement U.N. Security Council resolutions” imposed on the North for its nuclear and missile programs, the top government spokesman said.

Trump said in his State of the Union address in Washington on Tuesday that he will meet with Kim on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam.

During the Diet committee session, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said he is arranging a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before the upcoming U.S.-North Korean summit.

“The U.S. side has sounded out a foreign ministers’ meeting. It is undecided where we will meet, but we’d like to coordinate our policies firmly,” Kono said.

They were expected to meet in mid-February on the sidelines of an international forum in Germany but dropped the plan after Pompeo canceled his European trip, a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

The ministry will send Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of its Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, to Seoul on Friday and Saturday for talks with Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, ministry sources said.

Biegun is staying in Pyongyang to discuss summit arrangements and the country’s denuclearization with North Korean officials. The U.S. envoy is scheduled to travel to the South Korean capital afterward.