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More info wanted on N. Korea-China talks

/ 11:14 AM March 29, 2018

TOKYO — The Japanese government is accelerating information gathering and analysis on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s surprise visit to China, and is seeking to receive briefings from Beijing.

During an intensive deliberation at the House of Councillors Budget Committee on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe referred to the visit by the chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and his summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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“With profound interest, we are working to analyze and collect information,” Abe said.

“We also want to receive briefings from the Chinese side,” he added.

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The prime minister then emphatically said: “It is imperative that North Korea dismantle its nuclear and missile programs completely, verifiably and irreversibly. Sanctions [against North Korea] must be maintained unless [Pyongyang] takes concrete actions” regarding dismantlement.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono, for his part, said at the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning: “The international community has engaged in dialogue [with Pyongyang] a number of times but was unable to stop North Korea’s nuclear [development]. [The situation] must be handled appropriately to avoid another mistake.”

Tokyo believes Pyongyang’s moves to improve ties with Beijing — following its steps for rapprochement with Washington and Seoul — are meant to allow the nation to proceed with denuclearization negotiations at a pace that it finds advantageous. North Korea is apparently “aiming to leave Japan out of [denuclearization] talks as Tokyo is leading the charge to pile on pressure” on Pyongyang, according to a senior Foreign Ministry official.

Japan has urged the United States and South Korea to conform with its basic stance of not loosening pressure on North Korea unless it takes specific steps toward denuclearization.

China is also poised to fully comply with sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council, but it had originally demonstrated its reluctance to put more pressure on the North.

Tokyo is concerned that Beijing may agree to ease sanctions against, and extend economic cooperation to, Pyongyang.

The Japanese and Chinese governments are currently coordinating a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Japan in April. If the visit is realized, Kono plans to urge Wang not to easily accept loosening the sanctions.

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