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Japan to urge U.S. to maintain pressure on N. Korea

TOKYO/OTSU, Japan — Japan will ask the United States to maintain pressure on North Korea to compel it to abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programs and resolve the abduction issue, government officials said Saturday as the U.S.-North Korea summit is set for June 12.


U.S. President Donald Trump, who reinstated his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, said Friday that he does not want to use the term “maximum pressure” anymore, raising concern in Japan about a change in the U.S. stance on Pyongyang.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday that Japan will not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea, adding that Tokyo will work to help make the Trump-Kim summit a success.


Japan “is determined to make utmost efforts so that it will be a historic summit that will move forward the nuclear, missile and abduction issues,” Abe said in a speech in the western Japan prefecture of Shiga, referring to the North’s past kidnap of Japanese nationals.


The Japanese prime minister has said the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s is one of the most important political agendas for his administration.


He will hold talks with Trump at the White House on June 7 before traveling to Canada for the Group of Seven summit on June 8 and 9, hoping to coordinate their policies toward the president’s summit with Kim.


Abe, speaking at a gathering organized by his Liberal Democratic Party’s local chapter, also stressed that Japan will not change its stance of keeping pressure on North Korea in collaboration with the international community.


“Japan will not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea. We continue to raise pressure and don’t allow loopholes” in international economic sanctions targeting the country, he said.


The prime minster did not use the “maximum pressure” phrase he has repeatedly employed after Trump’s remark on Friday that he does not want to use it when Washington and Pyongyang are “getting along.”


Trump made that comment after meeting with Kim Yong Chol, a close aide to the North Korean leader, in the White House, in an apparent bid to lay the groundwork for the Singapore summit.


“It’s questionable whether (Trump’s remark) represents the view of his administration as a whole,” one Japanese government official said.


Another official said many of the economic sanctions against North Korea are based on U.N. Security Council resolutions and there will be no easing of pressure unless North Korea takes specific steps toward denuclearization.


During the upcoming Japan-U.S. summit, Abe is expected to call on Trump to bring up the abduction issue in his meeting with Kim. Trump said he did not talk about human rights issues with the North Korean envoy, suggesting the issue was not brought up.


A source close to Abe said there is no reason for Japan to become concerned about the absence of reference to the abduction issue as long as the matter is discussed in the Trump-Kim summit.

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