By Hiroshi Tajima / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed during bilateral summit talks on Tuesday that the two countries would maintain maximum pressure on North Korea.
Trump also pledged to raise the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea at a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un slated to be held by early June.
The Japanese government attributes such developments to the close ties between Abe and Trump. However, it remains to be seen whether the U.S.-North Korea summit talks will unfold as the Japanese government hopes.
Upon his arrival Tuesday afternoon at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private estate, Abe held a one-on-one dialogue with Trump accompanied only by interpreters.
“I want to share an understanding on the abandonment of nuclear weapons and missiles by North Korea through complete, verifiable and irreversible means,” Abe stressed at the beginning of the talks, adding, “I want to actively discuss the abduction issue, which is important to Japan.”
During his current visit to the United States, Abe aims to remind Trump that North Korea should not be rewarded until it completely denuclearizes. Following past talks, Pyongyang continued its nuclear and missile development even after receiving heavy oil and other concessions.
Abe also aimed to secure Trump’s cooperation on the abduction issue — an important subject for the prime minister — to ensure it would not be shelved in the inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea summit talks.
After the one-on-one talks, which lasted about 55 minutes, another meeting was held with a small number of senior officials from both governments in attendance. At the beginning of the meeting, Trump discussed his intention to check Pyongyang, saying he would consider different measures if the U.S.-North Korea talks did not go well. He also promised to raise the abduction issue.
“Abe’s efforts have worked well. Trump probably intends to leave immediately if the U.S.-North Korea talks do not go well, ” said a senior Foreign Ministry official.
However, the president is known for his unpredictable words and actions. Trump’s acceptance of summit talks with North Korea revealed a miscalculation by the Japanese government, which believed the current situation was at a stage for further pressuring North Korea.
Abe himself told those around him that the U.S.-North Korea talks would be held “earlier than I thought.”
A senior Foreign Ministry official said of the U.S.-North Korea talks’ prospects of success, “we won’t know until after they end.”