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Commentary: Policy of pressure on North Korea is clearly at impasse

At the Japan-U.S. summit meeting on Nov. 6, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to place the maximum level of pressure on North Korea. Tokyo Shimbun asked former Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Kyoji Yanagisawa about the problems with a policy of pressure.


With tensions heightening over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, the Japan-U.S. summit meeting issued the message that the two nations would raise pressure on Pyongyang to the maximum level. Such a message was to be expected. The meeting presented no path toward resolving the North Korea issue, however. Rather, what was revealed at the meeting was that the policy of putting pressure on the rogue state is at an impasse.


Prime Minister Abe said he will create a context where North Korea will change its policy and ask for talks. What policy change does he anticipate from Pyongyang? That it will immediately abandon its nuclear weapons program? That it will never conduct another nuclear weapons test? That it will not fire an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) toward the United States? It is not clear.


Without knowing what the aim of “maximum pressure” is, it is impossible to know what the leaders think lies on the other side of “maximum pressure.” An agreement? A war?


Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that the option of exercising force is on the table, and Prime Minister Abe clearly supports that option. Under what conditions will that option be chosen? What kind of damage will Japan and South Korea sustain? Without knowing that, it cannot be communicated to Pyongyang and the people’s anxiety cannot be eliminated.


How long will this game of chicken, that draws in the Japanese people, continue? A true leader would offer a clear vision of what needs to be done now.


The two national leaders boast that the Japan-U.S. alliance “has never been stronger.” How can we eliminate the danger of war that lies right before us and reach a final solution where North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons? An alliance has no meaning if that cannot be done. As the prime minister is fond of saying, government is about producing results.

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