Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday said he does not believe that North Korea will use two upcoming summits to “buy time” to develop nuclear weapons, South Korea’s presidential office said.
In a statement following a meeting between Abe and director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) Suh Hoon, the Blue House said the Japanese Prime Minister had expressed support for recent steps towards dialogue with Pyongyang.
“As North Korea is a facing a situation of having big negotiations like the North-U.S. summit following an inter-Korean summit, I don’t believe they will utilize the opportunity simply to buy time,” Abe said in a written statement provided by the South Korean presidential office.
The meeting was also attended by Second Deputy Chief of the Presidential National Security Office (NSO) Nam Gwan-pyo and other senior officials from Japan and South Korea.
Suh and Nam arrived in Japan on Monday for a two-day visit to the country intended to brief Japanese officials on the NIS chief’s recent trips to North Korea and the United States.
A 10-member South Korean special delegation made a two-day trip to Pyongyang last week, meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and senior officials.
They then traveled to the U.S., where it was announced that Trump had accepted an invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un.
“I showed my respect to the leadership of President Moon Jae-in which has brought about the improvement of inter-Korean relations and a change in the situation of denuclearization,” Abe was quoted as having said in the written statement.
“I assessed the change in the current situation as the result of close cooperation between the three countries, the South, the U.S., and Japan.”
The South Korean presidential office said Abe had “expressed a deep interest” in North Korea’s current position.
“It is our basic stance that the nuclear and missile problems and the abduction issues of Japanese people should be resolved,” Abe also said in comments carried by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
“It is important to implement words into action and for the North to take concrete actions toward denuclearization.”
Tokyo would “certainly cooperate” with Seoul, Abe added, while asking South Korea and the U.S. to help resolve what is known as the “abduction issue”: the 17 Japanese citizens said to have been kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.
After the meeting with Abe, Suh told reporters that he had briefed the prime minister on his recent meetings with Kim Jong Un and Trump “in detail,” and that the two had a “very informative and fine conversation.”
The two South Korean officials on Monday evening also met with Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono and other senior officials, discussing Suh’s visit last week to North Korea, meeting with Kim Jong Un, and recent talks with the U.S. President.
South Korean presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said Kono and officials had “appreciated the explanation and expressed their respect to South Korea’s efforts” in bringing the North to the negotiation table.
“[Kono] assessed that the current situation is a moment right before the miracle of East Asia, and we will work together while closely consulting with South Korea to resolve the issue of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula…” Kim said.
South Korea’s two special envoys to last week’s talks in Pyongyang have in the past few days visited several former participating countries in the long-stalled six-party talks, with chief of the National Security Office (NSO) Chung Eui-yong visiting Beijing on Monday and Tuesday.
Chung on Monday met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, South Korean presidential spokesperson Kim said, as well as senior officials including Chinese State Councilor and top diplomat Yang Jiechi and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
National security advisor Chung delivered a message to Xi from South Korean President Moon Jae-in and briefed him on the visit to Pyongyang and Washington.
“China, as a close neighbor to South Korea, willingly endorses the movement to improve the inter-Korean relations and to consistently promote reconciliation and cooperation,” Xi was quoted by ROK presidential spokesperson Kim as saying.
“I am pleased that close dialogue between the North and the U.S. will take place… I hope the South-North summit will go on smoothly and make an achievement, and I will actively support it.”
Xi told Chung that “great progress” had been made thanks to South Korea’s efforts.
The ROK national security advisor is scheduled to depart for Moscow on Tuesday, though a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly unlikely to happen due to the country’s upcoming presidential election.
Russia’s state-run TASS news agency on Monday reported the Russian foreign ministry plans to organize a meeting between Chung and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
Despite this, U.S. officials have over the past few days been unclear on when or where the talks will take place.
Monday saw U.S. State of Secretary Rex Tillerson say “several steps” would be necessary before a meeting between the two leaders could happen.
“…it’s a very recent development. There will be – several steps will be necessary to agree on a location, agree on a scope of those discussions,” Tillerson said. “It’s very early stages. We’ve not heard anything directly back from North Korea, although we expect to hear something directly from them.”
“Nothing – nothing’s been agreed, and I don’t want to start floating ideas out through the media,” he added, when asked about possible locations for the summit.
“I think it’s going to be very important that those kinds of conversations are held quietly between the two parties.”
Tillerson, however, did tell media on Monday that Washington would seek “a nice neutral site where both parties will feel confident.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Sunday refused to discuss North Korea, citing the “delicate” nature of the topic.
And in spite of the upcoming talks, U.S. officials have also reiterated their support for continued pressure on the North.
U.S. National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster on Monday briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Washington’s strategy.
According to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, McMaster in his speech “emphasized that maintaining the global maximum pressure campaign until North Korea denuclearizes is an essential element of making these historic talks a success.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday, too, said the Trump administration would “continue to bring all of that pressure” until the North abandoned its ballistic missiles and nuclear program.
“What North Korea should know, what the world should know is that we will not relent in our maximum pressure campaign, sanctions will remain on,” Pence said in an interview with Fox News.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Japanese Prime Minister’s office
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