National / Politics

Abe and Trump discuss North Korea's projectile drill in phone call

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump “completely” agreed Monday that, following Pyongyang’s firing of projectiles into the Sea of Japan late last week, their countries will seek a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by coordinating bilateral efforts.

Speaking to reporters after his phone conversation with Trump, Abe said Japanese and U.S. experts will analyze the nature of the projectiles, and that he is still willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “without conditions” despite the latest development.

“President Trump and I completely agreed on every aspect of how we should deal with North Korea,” Abe said. “We are completely on the same page that we will seek to have the agreement between the United States and North Korea (on denuclearization) implemented swiftly.”

The White House said the two leaders reaffirmed their unity on how to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, and also discussed Trump’s state visit to Japan in late May as well as regional and bilateral trade issues.

Trump emphasized his “strong support” for American farmers, the White House said, a sign that he may have urged Abe to reduce tariffs on American agricultural products.

North Korea launched the projectiles between 9:06 a.m. and 9:27 a.m. Saturday from an area around the Hodo Peninsula, near Wonsan, and they traveled between 70 and 200 kilometers to the northeast before falling into the sea, South Korea’s military said earlier.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry has said the projectiles included a new tactical guided weapon, while some U.S. and South Korean military experts believe they were short-range ballistic missiles.

North Korea is prohibited from conducting ballistic missile launches under U.N. Security Council resolutions, and no such tests by the country have been confirmed since November 2017.

The launches followed a lack of substantive progress on the denuclearization of North Korea despite two high-profile summits between Trump and Kim.

The launch, seen as a sign of Pyongyang’s frustration with Washington, came as Kim has stepped up diplomacy through face-to-face meetings with his foreign counterparts including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After speaking with Trump, Abe expressed his willingness to meet with Kim to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, a top priority for him.

“To resolve the abduction issue, I myself need to face Chairman Kim without conditions,” Abe told reporters after talking to Trump, adding that he will seize “every opportunity available” to settle the long-standing issue, which has prevented the two countries from normalizing relations.

Abe’s previous stance had been that he would meet with Kim only if there was a guarantee progress would be made toward resolving the issue of abductees.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday that Abe’s willingness to hold an unconditional summit with Kim demonstrates his determination to find a resolution to the abductions and other outstanding issues.

“The prime minister has said he will end mutual distrust and meet with Chairman Kim to resolve North Korea’s nuclear, missile, and most importantly, abduction issues. His alluding to a summit without conditions reflects that determination more clearly,” Suga said at a news briefing.

Asked if the Japanese government has changed its policy toward North Korea, Suga said pledges made in a bilateral declaration signed in 2002 are still valid. In the declaration, the two countries agreed to seek a comprehensive settlement of the nuclear, missile and abduction issues, as well as a normalization of bilateral relations.

Abe has yet to meet with Kim, who has had face-to-face meetings with other world leaders such as Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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