Foreign Minister Taro Kono spoke to reporters on Jan. 16 after the conclusion of the foreign ministers’ meeting held in Vancouver to discuss how to address North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs: “It is very significant that we agreed to enhance pressure on North Korea to the maximum level through all possible means.” The Japanese government was concerned about the statements insisting on prioritizing dialogue that have been issued by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is thought to favor dialogue, and Canada, which jointly hosted the Vancouver gathering, as well as South Korea, which is moving forward with inter-Korean dialogue. The Vancouver meeting confirmed basically that pressure will be fortified, and Kono declared, “There was absolutely no sense of desiring to prioritize dialogue or take a conciliatory stance.”
The U.S.-Canada co-chairs’ summary included a statement about “supporting” progress in the inter-Korean dialogue. At the meeting, Kono expressed concern that the inter-Korean dialogue is “buying time” for the North to continue its development of nuclear weapons and missiles and sarcastically called its approach to South Korea “smile diplomacy.” The international community will be watching the inter-Korean dialogue, it seems.
A top official at the Ministry of Finance said, “We would like to avoid a situation where the U.S. makes easy compromises just because the inter-Korean dialogue has led to consultations between Washington and Pyongyang.” The Japanese government plans to reconcile its policies with the United States.