All national dailies wrote that the GOJ reacted cautiously to Kim Jong Un’s alleged openness to denuclearization and the planned inter-Korean summit, with Defense Minister Onodera telling the press last night: “While hinting at denuclearization several times in the past, North Korea did not give up on its nuclear development in the end. It is necessary to carefully assess the situation to see whether this will lead to the relinquishment of its nuclear and missile programs.” The GOJ reportedly suspects that North Korea may be simply trying to buy time to pursue nuclear and missile development while holding dialogue with the international community as it has in the past. The Abe administration is set to deepen coordination with the United States based on the assessment that North Korea has grown conciliatory on account of the maximum pressure campaign.
However, according to Yomiuri, the nation’s largest paper, Tokyo is alarmed by the possibility of the Trump administration being tempted to cut a deal with North Korea. The paper said the GOJ is worried that the issue of North Korea’s short- and medium-range missiles that are capable of reaching Japan will not be addressed in U.S.-DPRK dialogue. Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is concerned that the abduction issue may be left unaddressed if the U.S. chooses to give top priority to resolving the nuclear and missile standoff. The Abe administration is reportedly hoping that when Foreign Minister Kono visits Washington later this month, he will confirm with Secretary of State Tillerson and Defense Secretary Mattis that any meaningful dialogue must be premised upon a pledge by North Korea to denuclearize. According to the paper, the GOJ also plans to urge South Korea not to be taken in by North Korea’s “smile diplomacy.”