By Lee Jong Wong, professor of graduate school, Waseda University
President Trump will deliver a speech with a focus on U.S. foreign policy with North Korea at the South Korean parliament on Nov. 8. He plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vietnam, where he will go after his visit to China. The Japan-U.S. summit was held at the onset of a series of diplomatic events. During this meeting, he focused on demonstrating the strong Japan-U.S. alliance and his friendship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the maximum extent.
His remarks on North Korea were subdued compared with what he said in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He did not insult Workers Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un. In a speech he delivered at a U.S. base in Japan, he only made reference to a “dictator.” On policy, he reiterated that “the era of strategic patience is over,” his administration’s basic stance.
But on the abduction issue, he referred to the early return of the victims that Japan has been demanding and said that “[it] would be the start of something — I think, would be just something very special.” This can be interpreted as a message that advancing the abduction issue could serve as momentum to change course. It drew attention that he referred to policies that North Korea should take, not merely cornering the regime by condemning or criticizing it.
North Korea is paying close attention to President Trump’s message. The regime, which has been sanctioned, is highly likely to announce the “completion” of a nuclear-capable, intercontinental ballistic missile and rattle the U.S. by proposing dialogue with a condition such as offering a moratorium on development.