All national dailies ran front-page reports in their Wednesday evening editions on the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula held in Vancouver on Tuesday, saying that the participants agreed to continue and strengthen the pressure on North Korea through sanctions and diplomatic measures until Pyongyang takes decisive steps to denuclearize. The foreign ministers reportedly agreed on the need to prevent the DPRK from engaging in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products. They reportedly called on China and Russia to fully implement UN Security Council sanctions by saying these nations have an important and special responsibility in resolving North Korean issues.
Asahi quoted Secretary of State Tillerson as stating at the Vancouver conference that the goal of the pressure campaign is to cut off the sources of funding that the DPRK uses to finance its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Secretary was also quoted as saying that the object of negotiations is the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. Concerning North Korea’s illicit ship-to-ship transfers, the Secretary was quoted as saying that the move is undermining UNSC sanctions.
Mainichi quoted the Secretary as stating: “We cannot and will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state,” while Yomiuri quoted him as saying: “We must increase the cost of the Kim regime’s behavior to the point that North Korea comes to the table for credible negotiations…. We will not allow North Korea to drive a wedge through our resolve or solidarity.” Nikkei quoted the Secretary as saying: “The purpose of our meeting today is to improve the effectiveness of the maximum pressure campaign and combat North Korea’s attempts to evade sanctions.”
All national dailies ran follow-up analytical articles on Thursday morning. Asahi wrote that while welcoming the inter-Korean dialogue, the foreign ministers demonstrated solidarity in the pressure campaign led by the United States and Japan, including strengthened monitoring of North Korea’s attempts to evade the sanctions through smuggling at sea. Foreign Minister Kono reportedly welcomed the outcome of the meeting by telling reporters after the meeting that there was absolutely no hint of a conciliatory mood toward Pyongyang at the meeting. Mainichi wrote that although the foreign ministers agreed to put continued pressure on the DPRK, including against smuggling, a statement by the co-chairs did not include concrete measures. Yomiuri speculated that the agreement at the Vancouver meeting to prevent North Korea’s evasion of sanctions is intended to further tighten the international coalition against Pyongyang, which is apparently trying to drive a wedge into the trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea and into the global community. Yomiuri wrote that Kono welcomed the outcome of the meeting by telling reporters that the conference was very meaningful. Nikkei wrote that there appear to be high hurdles to clear to increase the effectiveness of the sanctions because it remains to be seen how China and Russia will react to the agreement reached at the Vancouver meeting. Sankei expressed a similar view.