By Keita Ikeda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
LONDON — The upcoming summit meeting of the Group of Seven major countries will likely bring up the issue of North Korea as a major agenda item, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to use this opportunity to strengthen cooperation among participating countries toward Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
The G-7 meeting is scheduled to be held in Sicily, southern Italy, on May 25 and 26.
Abe discussed the North Korea issue during a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London on Friday.
At a joint press conference Friday afternoon, the two leaders were in step when it came to harshly condemning North Korea, which has not abandoned its nuclear and missile development program.
“We stand steadfast in our condemnation of such destabilizing activity,” May said.
“Prime Minister Abe and I have agreed that we will continue to work with our international partners to maintain pressure on North Korea.”
“It is very significant that Japan and Britain agreed on cooperation,” Abe said.
For European countries, security risks stemming from North Korea and China’s military expansion were previously perceived as regional problems in Asia, far from Europe. However, now that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is putting pressure on North Korea, these European countries are sharing the same concern that Japan has.
Abe visited Germany, France and Italy in late March. His diplomacy apparently has the upcoming G-7 meeting in mind.
During the Abe-May meeting, May criticized North Korea by name. Abe’s diplomatic strategy is aimed at deterring North Korea’s nuclear and missile development with pressure from Japan, the United States and European countries. In the G-7 meeting this month, the North Korea issue is expected to be one of the main themes to be discussed.
Another role that participating countries hope Abe will play at the meeting is a mediator between Trump, who touts an “America first” policy, and Europe, which attaches importance to free trade. Because Abe is keeping on friendly terms with Trump, other G-7 leaders give Abe due respect.
In addition, it will be the sixth G-7 meeting for Abe, the second most after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 12th time. The current leaders of four countries — the United States, Britain, France and Italy — will be attending the meeting for the first time. Abe is, therefore, considered a “senior” figure in the G-7 meetings. “Abe is in a position to take initiatives in the discussions,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
A focal point of the G-7 leaders’ declaration is whether they will clearly state opposition to growing protectionism around the world. At the Group of 20 financial chiefs and central governors meeting in March, a phrase — “resist all forms of protectionism” — was dropped from its joint statement in consideration of the Trump administration.
As the G-7 countries are also divided over how to deal with immigrants and refugees, discussions on those issues are also in the spotlight. The Syria issue and how to deal with Russia, which is backing the administration of Syrian President Bashar Assad, are also likely to be discussed.