Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he wants to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un even though he keeps testing missiles. At the same time, Abe gave a cold shoulder to South Korea amid tensions over wartime history.
In a policy speech opening the parliamentary session, Abe said he will take any chance to meet Kim.
“I’m determined to face Chairman Kim Jong Un, without attaching any preconditions,” Abe said, after changing his policy earlier this year.
Based on a level-headed analysis, I will act decisively so that I won’t miss any chance.” Abe used to say he would meet Kim only when there is progress on denuclearization and the decades-old issue of Japanese citizens abducted to North Korea. But he changed his tune after other regional leaders, including those in China, South Korea and Russia, choose to meet Kim.
North Korea has resumed missile tests ahead of a resumption of nuclear negotiations with the United States this weekend. The latest test on Wednesday included a missile that fell inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
“Regarding the current North Korea situation, we will do the utmost to protect the safety of the people as we will closely cooperate with the U.S. and the international community,” Abe said.
While maintaining its alliance with the US as a “cornerstone” of diplomacy and security, Japan will also “join hands with countries that it shares fundamental values, such as Britain, France, Australia and India, to achieve free and open Indo-Pacific,” Abe said.
Unlike in the past, Abe did not mention South Korea in the context of cooperation on North Korean missile and nuclear threats.
He only repeated that South Korea must withdraw demands for Japanese wartime compensation beyond what was already paid under the peace treaty. “South Korea is an important neighbor. I urge (South Korea) to keep promises between countries under the international law,” he said.
Relations between the US allies deteriorated rapidly since July over the issue of Korean laborers abused by Japanese companies during World War II, as well as Japan’s export controls for materials crucial for South Korean industries. It prompted Seoul to announce in late August it would terminate a bilateral military intelligence pact.