TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised the U.S. stance of strengthening pressure on North Korea during a meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday and once again stressed the unity of Japan and the United States.
However, the two countries have not been able to draw up a road map for North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear programs, and the Japanese government plans to work with the United States to prepare for a possible military clash between the United States and North Korea.
At the beginning of the meeting, Abe emphatically said: “Unlike the former administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, which pursued a policy of ‘strategic patience,’ the administration of Donald Trump is trying to deal with the problem by thinking that all options are on the table. We appreciate that.”
The Obama administration’s basic policy of “strategic patience” held that the U.S. government would not engage in dialogue unless North Korea took concrete actions toward denuclearization.
The Japanese government believes that this policy, which involved no military pressure, actually encouraged North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, according to a senior official at the Foreign Ministry.
Abe is poised to support the Trump administration, which has pledged to promote peace through strength.
At a joint press conference with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso after the Japan-U.S. economic dialogue, Pence strongly warned North Korea that the United States would pressure it to abandon its nuclear development, adding, “All options are on the table.”
The two governments hope to achieve North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear program through heightening U.S. military pressure as well as strengthening economic sanctions by China.
Following the bilateral meeting between the United States and China, Pence told Abe that his country shares a sense of crisis with China and hopes China will respond to further pressure.
However, a senior Japanese Defense Ministry official said, “North Korea considers nuclear development to be a means of deterring U.S. attacks.”
During the talks with Pence, Abe said it is not easy to realize dialogue with North Korea, saying, “There are almost no leaders in the world who have met with Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un.”
Even if North Korea agreed to hold talks, it is highly possible that it would hold only bilateral talks with the United States, making it uncertain whether the six-party talks, including Japan, could be the framework of the talks.
According to a senior government official, if the United States accepts bilateral talks, Washington and Pyongyang may compromise solely on the development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, while medium-range ballistic missiles, which have Japan within their range, remained intact. Tokyo is increasingly concerned about this possibility.
On the other hand, if there is a military clash between the United States and North Korea, Japan could be subject to retaliation.
The Japanese government has asked the United States to hold prior consultations in the event of military action and is seeking cooperation from the U.S. military for the evacuation of Japanese nationals in South Korea.
In the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula, the Self-Defense Forces are expected to provide logistical support to the U.S. military.
The Japanese government intends to continue to communicate with the United States. During the meeting, Abe and Pence agreed that the two countries would continue to exchange information at every possible occasion.