Saturday morning’s Yomiuri reported that according to several GOJ sources, Foreign Minister Kono is hoping to meet with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho on the sidelines of the ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting slated for July 30 to Aug. 4 in Singapore. The GOJ has reportedly begun making serious preparations for a summit between Prime Minister Abe and Chairman Kim after President Trump raised the abduction issue at the U.S.-DPRK summit on June 12. The daily added that if a Japan-DPRK foreign ministerial is held, Kono will try to gauge North Korea’s thinking on the possibility of a Japan-DPRK summit.
Sunday’s Nikkei reported that FM Kono said at a meeting held in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa, on Saturday: “Even if the elimination [of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs] is carried out in phases, economic sanctions will not be lifted gradually. The sanctions will remain in place as long for as North Korea prolongs its complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.” According to the paper, Kono also expressed support for Secretary State Pompeo’s wish to complete most of the denuclearization process by the time President Trump’s first term expires in January 2021.
Meanwhile, Monday’s Yomiuri took up remarks made on a Sunday TV talk show by FM Kono, who disclosed that he was told by Secretary of State Pompeo that a total of 47 issues are being addressed in denuclearization talks with North Korea, including biological and chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, and nuclear reprocessing facilities. Kono asserted that the word “denuclearization,” as used in the U.S.-DPRK joint statement, encompasses all of these aspects and that the Trump administration is aiming to eliminate all of these DPRK military assets and programs. Mainichi highlighted a separate remark by the foreign minister on the same TV show, in which he commented on the U.S. decision to halt joint exercises with South Korea by saying: “It has nothing to do with joint drills between the U.S. and Japan. At present, it has not had any effect on Japan’s security.”