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Japan confident U.S. stance on N. Korea unchanged after Pence remark

TOKYO — Senior Japanese officials said Tuesday Japan and the United States continue to share the same stance on North Korea even after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence expressed readiness to talk with Pyongyang without preconditions in a newspaper interview.


The Washington Post quoted Pence on Monday as saying on his way home from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea that while the United States will continue to maximize diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea, “if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”


The Japanese government has repeatedly said no dialogue should be held with Pyongyang until it agrees to make changes to its policies on nuclear weapon and missile development.


While refraining from directly commenting on Pence’s reported remark, the government’s top spokesman said Tokyo and Washington remain on the same page on the issue.


“We have spent plenty of time with the U.S. government analyzing North Korea’s latest developments and closely aligning our future strategy, including during Vice President Pence’s visit to Japan” last week, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.


Pence stopped off in Japan, where he affirmed the “maximum pressure” line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, before heading to South Korea.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said there has been “no particular policy change” when asked about the Pence interview.


“Japan, the United States and South Korea are working in very close coordination to continue to maximize pressure (on North Korea),” Kono told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.


Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Pence continues to maintain the position that the goal of the pressure campaign is to make North Korea change its nuclear and missile policies.


Meanwhile in North Korea, official media quoted leader Kim Jong Un as vowing to further improve ties with South Korea during a meeting with a high-level delegation returning from its trip to Pyeongchang and Seoul.


In talks with South Korean President Moon Jae In on Saturday, the delegation handed Moon a letter from Kim and invited him to visit Pyongyang for a summit.

Suga sounded caution over the prospect of such a visit, saying North Korea is clearly still developing nuclear weapons and missiles and the international community should not be distracted by its “smile diplomacy.”

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