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Abe, Pence meet to confirm need for cooperation on N. Korea

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence held talks Wednesday to confirm the necessity of close cooperation with each other and with South Korea in addressing the threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development.


“Through the strong bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance, we stand ready to address the issue of North Korea and other challenges,” Abe said at the outset of the talks, open to the press.


“We will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Japan, the people of South Korea and our allies and partners across the region until we achieve the global objective of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and we end the provocations and threats that North Korea has presented,” Pence replied.


Abe and Pence are scheduled to visit South Korea later in the week to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Friday and have separate meetings with President Moon Jae In.


They will likely reaffirm their policy of maximizing pressure on North Korea to compel it to abandon its nuclear and missile development programs, Japanese government sources said.


The Abe-Pence meeting comes as Tokyo and Washington are sharing concerns that South Korea is leaning toward an excessively conciliatory stance with North Korea in the run-up to the Olympics.


The two Koreas have decided to form a joint women’s ice hockey team and march together under a unified flag in the opening ceremony after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month voiced his readiness to send a delegation to the international sports event.


Abe is also expected to seek U.S. understanding of Japan’s stance in its dispute with South Korea over Korean women who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels, the sources said.


In 2015, Japan and South Korea signed a landmark agreement to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the “comfort women” issue.


But Moon, whose predecessor approved the deal, has said it was “seriously flawed” and expressed hope that Japan will offer an additional apology to the victims.


Pence, who arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday evening, visited Japan’s Defense Ministry prior to his talks with Abe to observe Patriot Advanced Capability-3 ground-based missile interceptors deployed there.


The PAC-3 interceptors form part of Japan’s missile defense system, which the country plans to upgrade with U.S.-developed technology in light of the threat from North Korea.


The vice president will leave Japan for South Korea on Thursday.

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