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Editorial: Will Washington ease pressure on North Korea to realize summit?

  • June 3, 2018
  • , The Japan News , 8:07 p.m.
  • English Press

A difference in standpoints over North Korea’s denuclearization still remains. U.S. President Donald Trump needs to recognize that it is premature to ease pressure on Pyongyang.

 

With regard to the unprecedented upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit, Trump declared that it will be held in Singapore on June 12, as originally scheduled. The cancellation of the summit, which he had announced about a week ago, has been reversed.

 

He said his meeting with Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, “went very well.” A personal letter from Kim Jong Un, chairman of the party, was also delivered by hand to Trump.

 

It was the first time in about 18 years that a senior official of North Korea, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States, has visited the White House and met with a U.S. president. The unusually cordial reception accorded by Washington probably took into account Pyongyang’s apprehension about securing guarantees from the United States over the regime’s safety.

 

U.S.-North Korea working-level talks have also been held at Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone that runs along the border between South and North Korea, and in Singapore. It is important to close the rift between the two sides through thorough preparations.

 

A matter of concern is that Trump has been conveying a mood of friendship and has become too eager regarding the realization of the summit talks, even though North Korea has not relaxed its cautious stance about abandoning its nuclear ambitions.

 

Trump said the June 12 summit will be the “beginning” of a process of denuclearization, and that both sides are not going to sign an agreement. Emphasizing the necessity of continuously holding talks, Trump also made clear that he had told the North Korean side to “take your time.”

 

N-dismantlement vital

 

Washington may have made concessions to North Korea, which is calling for its denuclearization in stages. As a matter of fact, it is difficult for everything to be solved in a single meeting, but the objective of realizing early the “complete, verifiable and irreversible nuclear dismantlement” of North Korea must not be shaken.

 

While declaring that the United States will maintain its sanctions on North Korea, Trump also said that “I don’t even want to use the term ‘maximum pressure’ anymore.” This may contradict his own remarks that sounded an alarm bell to the revitalization of China-North Korea trade.

 

If international efforts to contain North Korea loosen, it would provide room for North Korea to delay its denuclearization. It is reasonable that Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera pointed out that maintaining pressure on Pyong-yang would lead to solving the problem.

 

For the past more than 20 years, North Korea has advanced its nuclear and missile development program as its highest priority issue, while deceiving the international community. It will not be easy to convince Chairman Kim that there would not be any future prospects to open up for the country even if Pyongyang possesses a nuclear arsenal, and then guide him into taking a path toward denuclearization and international cooperation.

 

Trump’s suggestion that the three neighboring countries of Japan, China and South Korea will extend economic assistance to Pyongyang if it abandons its nuclear program is far too hasty. Priority should be given to discerning whether Kim would make a firm decision to shift his strategy or not.

 

The Japanese government must continue telling the United States of its position of seeking concrete progress on the issues of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, and the abduction of Japanese nationals.

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