Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and United States President Donald Trump have reportedly agreed to continue to pressure North Korea over its weapons programs even as Pyongyang engages in nascent dialog with its main rival Seoul.
According to a statement by the Japanese Foreign Ministry on Thursday, Abe and Trump agreed in a telephone conversation that there would be “no meaningful dialog” unless North Korea agreed on “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”
After the phone conversation, which reportedly lasted over an hour, Abe told reporters that he and the US president had affirmed they would keep up the pressure on North Korea until it entered into negotiations and abandoned its nuclear program.
“Dialog for the sake of dialog would be meaningless,” the Japanese prime minister said. “We talked thoroughly about what we should do from here on to make the denuclearization of North Korea a reality.”
North Korea has been engaging in a rapprochement with the South since January this year. The Winter Olympics 2018, which are being hosted by the South, have provided an opportunity for the two sides to put aside long-running hostilities; and there is hope that the thaw would continue after the Games.
By courting Seoul, Pyongyang has sidelined the US — which has long portrayed itself as a major player in the dispute on the Korean Peninsula — and Japan, a close follower of US policy.
Abe said he and Trump had reaffirmed the Tokyo-Washington alliance against Pyongyang. Since defeat in World War II, Japan has been reliant on the US for its security.
South Korea hosted a high-ranking delegation from the North, including the North Korean leader’s sister, after Pyongyang expressed willingness to participate in the Olympic Games early in January.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, who thanked the South for its hospitality during the Games, then invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang for a summit later this year, pledging efforts to continue the reconciliation process.
Abe held talks with President Moon prior to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games and said the two countries would continue to work with the US in maximizing pressure on North Korea.