A rising sense of caution is being felt in the Japanese government that “President Trump might make concessions to Chairman Kim Jong Un at the U.S.-DPRK summit.” The South Korean government of President Moon Jae-in is already heading in the direction of maintaining friendly relations with the North.
The North Korean threat could be further heightened and the foundation of the Japan-U.S. alliance could be shaken depending on what kind of concessions the U.S. makes. The greatest concern for Tokyo is that no progress will be made on denuclearization.
At the U.S.-North Korea summit in June last year, Chairman Kim promised to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. But he has yet to submit a list of nuclear weapons, materials, facilities, and plans.
Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, who is now visiting the Hawaiian island of Kauai, said, “I hope the upcoming summit will produce more tangible results toward denuclearization than the first meeting.” Foreign Minister Taro Kono pointed out, “I’ll cooperate with the international community for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea’s nuclear missiles and push for the right decision.”
The possibility that the Trump administration will strike a bargain with North Korea by agreeing to halt the development of long-range missiles that can reach the U.S. worries Japan because that would mean it would still possess medium-range missiles that are capable of targeting Japan. This would lead to the U.S. becoming less involved in the Korean Peninsula and put Japan at a higher risk.
The Japanese government is bracing itself for the possibility that North Korea will demand the withdrawal of the U.S. military in South Korea as a condition for giving up its nuclear weapons. The U.S. forces in South Korea are important as a deterrent not only against North Korea but also China. A Japanese government source points out, “There is concern that a deal between Washington and Pyongyang could affect the security of the entire East Asia region.”