North Korea, Okinawa may be on agenda during Pence’s upcoming Tokyo visit
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 8, 2018
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Vice President Mike Pence and his wife are set to visit Tokyo next week, according to high-level Japanese government officials.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga recently told reporters that the United States and Japan will reconfirm their cooperation over efforts to contain North Korean and other issues during the visit, said a report published Thursday by the Reuters news agency.
Pence will meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, Japan’s Asahi newspaper said.
Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan, said the visit may be about reassuring Japanese leadership that there won’t be a major change in U.S. policy toward Japan following midterm elections in which Democrats took control of the House of Representatives.
A planned meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a senior North Korean envoy was postponed at the last minute this week, casting a shadow over nuclear talks.
Pompeo had been due to meet with North Korean official Kim Yong Chol Thursday in New York in a bid to jump start efforts to reach agreement on how to implement a promise to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
The State Department did not give an explanation but said in a brief statement that the meeting “will now take place at a later date.”
Japanese leaders may also want to reassure Pence that plans to realign U.S. forces on Okinawa are on track following the recent election of anti-base governor Denny Tamaki, Kingston said.
Construction recently restarted on a runway into Oura Bay at Camp Schwab that will facilitate the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Local officials have long attempted to block the effort in favor of moving air operations off the island altogether.
The visit might also involve efforts to get the Pacific allies on the same page ahead of trade negotiations with China, he added.
The vice president will be accompanied by second lady Karen Pence, who plans to speak Tuesday at U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty’s residence, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said in an email.
“Karen Pence will deliver remarks at the announcement of a U.S. Embassy grant to support art therapy in Japan, and then meet with spouses of U.S. military personnel serving in Japan,” the message said.
Pence will travel later to Singapore for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and then to Papua New Guinea to fill in for Trump at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, summit Nov. 17-19.
That gathering will be attended by a number of other Pacific leaders, including new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Stars and Stripes correspondent Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.