WASHINGTON - Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed Thursday to closely coordinate their response to North Korea’s recent launches of projectiles.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Washington, Suga said he briefed Pompeo about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s intention to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions to try and resolve the issue of Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
It is rare for a chief Cabinet secretary, who is responsible for crisis management, to leave Japan. Suga’s last official overseas trip was to Guam in 2015.
Suga and Pompeo also agreed to jointly seek a swift resolution to the abduction issue, and to effect the full enforcement of U.N. sanctions on North Korea in tandem with the international community to force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
The two ministers discussed their “close alliance” and reaffirmed bilateral commitment to the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, according to the U.S. State Department.
In a separate meeting, Suga and acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, also discussed how best to deal with Pyongyang.
“We agreed to closely coordinate between Japan and the United States at various levels over analysis and responses,” Suga said in reference to Pyongyang’s recent launches of what appeared to be multiple projectiles, including short-range missiles. The Pentagon confirmed Thursday’s projectiles were ballistic missiles, according to a U.S. government official.
At the meeting, Suga and Shanahan also agreed to continue pushing for the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture as part of the realignment of American troops in Japan.
“The Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of the peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Suga said. “Japan, through increased defense capabilities, will contribute to strengthening deterrence and response capabilities of the alliance.”
He affirmed with Pompeo and Shanahan the stepping up of preparations for President Donald Trump’s state visit to Japan in late May, and in their cooperation on realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific.
On Friday, Suga — in charge of the abduction issue as well as measures to reduce Okinawa’s burden in hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan — was expected to meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the White House.
Suga’s three-day visit to Washington and New York through Saturday will include a Friday symposium on the abduction issue at the U.N. headquarters, and a meeting with finance and business leaders in New York.