Japan PM hails Trump-Kim agreement as ‘first step’

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to media after the news conference by the US President Donald Trump, after the summit between the US and North Korea in Singapore, at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, June 12, 2018. — Reuters pic
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to media after the news conference by the US President Donald Trump, after the summit between the US and North Korea in Singapore, at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, June 12, 2018. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, June 13 — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday welcomed a document signed by North Korea’s leader at an unprecedented summit with US President Donald Trump as a “first step” towards denuclearisation.

Speaking briefly after Kim Jong-un and Trump held historic talks in Singapore, Abe also said he was pleased that the US leader said he had raised the emotive issue of Japanese abducted by Pyongyang.

“Through this US-North Korea summit, Chairman Kim Jong-un’s intent for complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula was confirmed in writing,” Abe told reporters.

“I support this as a first step to the comprehensive resolution of issues concerning North Korea.”

Kim and Trump signed a document after their talks in which the North Korean leader reaffirmed his commitment to “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”, without giving further details.

It made no reference to other weapons capabilities, including the missiles that North Korea has fired over Japan.

The document also refers to the repatriation of the remains of prisoners of war and those killed in conflict.

But it makes no specific reference to people abducted by North Korea — something Japan has long lobbied for.

The issue of Japanese citizens who were abducted in the 1970s and 1980s to help Pyongyang train its spies has long soured already strained relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

The Japanese government has officially listed 17 people as abductees, but there are strong suspicions that dozens more citizens were snatched to train Pyongyang’s spies in the Japanese language and culture.

Japan has repeatedly called for the issue to be raised in discussions with Pyongyang, and Trump said at a press conference yesterday afternoon that he had discussed the issue with Kim.

“I highly appreciate the fact that President Trump firmly touched upon what I told him recently about the abduction issue which is very important to us, to Japan,” Abe said.

Later in the day, Abe said he spoke to Trump by phone and confirmed the US leader “clearly” delivered a message to Kim over the abduction issue. Abe declined to comment further on the details on the call.

Japan has maintained a hardline position on North Korea despite a whirlwind of diplomacy towards Pyongyang in recent months, and has been left largely on the sidelines as South Korea and the United States have held talks with Kim.

Abe has suggested recently he could talk with Kim directly in an attempt to resolve the abduction issue, though there has been no substantive movement thus far on potential talks.

A high-ranking Japanese government official said Tokyo has no plan to provide financial assistance to Pyongyang “unless the abduction issue moves forward”, according to public broadcaster NHK.

“From now on, there will be various kinds of bargaining toward a Japan-North Korea summit,” the unnamed official said. — AFP

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