The Hokkoku Shimbun held an exclusive interview with U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty in Kanazawa during his visit to Ishikawa Prefecture on Feb. 9. On North Korea, which is making big headlines across the globe by taking part in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics that opened on the same day, he noted that “we will not allow North Korea to hijack the Games” and emphasized the U.S. positon of not being deceived by the mood of North-South reconciliation that Pyongyang is producing and aiming for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through strict pressure by the international community.
Ambassador Hagerty analyzed that Pyongyang is showing a reconciliatory attitude through the PyeongChang Games because economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations and other pressure are producing results. He pointed out that the world has witnessed the North roll out such “smile diplomacy” before. “We will keep a close eye on North Korea’s actions during and even after the Games,” he said.
The ambassador also refereed to starvation and forced labor inside North Korea and the fact that Japanese abductees have yet to be returned. In this connection, he stressed that “under such circumstances, we will not allow North Korea to create the image of sending the wrong message that “we are acting in a humanitarian manner” by participating in the Olympics.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Japan on his way to South Korea for the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Games and met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Feb. 7. Ambassador Hagerty explained that this “sent out a powerful message to the international community that ‘the U.S. is with Japan’.”