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Japan shows ‘understanding’ about summit, vows to keep pressure on N. Korea

Commuters walk past photos of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted by North Koreans in 1977, at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, May 9, 2018.

LEON COOK/STARS AND STRIPES

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 25, 2018

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Japanese officials promised to keep pressure on North Korea after President Donald Trump’s decision Thursday to cancel a historic summit with Kim Jong Un.

The meeting — scheduled for June 12 in Singapore — would have been the first between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president.

Long affected by the North’s nuclear and missile threats, Japan had hoped for a breakthrough that could lead to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the release of Japanese citizens abducted by the North in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Friday that his agency would “continue monitoring and surveillance activities against North Korea,” according to the Asahi newspaper.

He also pledged to contain any illegal ship-to-ship activities that the North might use to get around harsh sanctions enacted after the communist state showed strong progress in its nuclear weapons development last year with three intercontinental ballistic missile tests and its sixth and most powerful nuclear blast.

“Japan will closely collaborate with the United States and South Korea to push North Korea to take concrete actions toward the complete abandonment of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles,” he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday that the cancellation was regrettable but that he would “respect and support” the decision.

Abe said he had been cooperating closely with Trump, according to a transcript of the press conference provided by his office.

“What is important is that the summit meeting has to be something that becomes an opportunity to make progress on issues such as nuclear, missiles and, most importantly, abduction,” he said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed “understanding” of Trump’s decision to call off the meeting, according to the Japan Times.

“It is meaningless to hold a summit if it does not bring about progress,” he said, adding that Japan still thinks Washington and Pyongyang should meet in the future.

“To achieve the North’s denuclearization and solve the abduction issues, Japan will closely work with the United States,” he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to issue a statement about the summit cancellation on Friday.

Sakie Yokota, whose daughter, Megumi, was abducted by the North in 1977, told Japan’s Jiji Press that she was monitoring the situation.

“I’m not so distressed since I thought something may happen again [because it’s North Korea],” she said. “I think the U.S. is responding logically.”

In his letter to Kim, Trump cited “tremendous anger and open hostility” from North Korea as reasons for pulling out of the summit.

“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” the president wrote.

North Korea had also threatened to cancel over joint U.S.-South Korean military drills and Washington’s call for unilateral denuclearization of the peninsula.

But Kim’s tone changed again after Trump’s latest move.

“We would like to make known to the US side once again that we have the intent to sit with the US side to solve problem(s) regardless of ways at any time,” Kim said Friday, according to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Stars and Stripes correspondent Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1

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