WASHINGTON — Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed Thursday to closely coordinate their response to North Korea’s recent launches of projectiles.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Washington, Suga said he briefed Pompeo about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s intention to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — without preconditions — to try and resolve the issue of Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
Suga and Pompeo also agreed to jointly seek a swift resolution to the abduction issue, and to effect the full enforcement of U.N. sanctions on North Korea in tandem with the international community to force Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
In a separate meeting, Suga, the top government spokesman and a close aide of Abe, and acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan agreed to step up bilateral coordination in dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea.
“We agreed to closely coordinate between Japan and the United States at various levels over analysis and responses,” Suga said, in reference to Pyongyang’s launches of what appeared to be two short-range missiles Thursday, as well as multiple projectiles — including one believed to be a short-range ballistic missile — last Saturday.
In the meeting at the Pentagon, Suga and Shanahan agreed to promote a planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture as part of the realignment of American troops in Japan.
Suga is in charge of the abduction issue as well as measures to reduce Okinawa’s burden in hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan. He will meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the White House, on Friday.
Suga’s three-day visit to Washington and New York through Saturday will include a Friday symposium on the abduction issue at the U.N. headquarters, and a meeting with financial and business leaders in New York.
It is rare for a chief Cabinet secretary, who is responsible for crisis management, to leave Japan. Suga’s last official overseas trip was to Guam in 2015.