Japan wary of Pyongyang’s move to divide allied nations

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The Japanese government is taking a cautious stance regarding Pyongyang’s request for South Korean President Moon Jae In to visit North Korea soon, considering it to be a bid by the North to break up the coordination among Japan, the United States and South Korea.

 As North Korea demonstrates its readiness to continue its nuclear and missile development, Tokyo intends to coordinate with Washington in urging Seoul to carefully handle the situation and not readily agree to talks.

 Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Saturday that past talks have failed and allowed the progress of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Onodera told reporters in Saga: “Of course, South Korea, Japan and the United States are all fully aware of the lesson [from the failed talks]. I think the South Korean government will also deal appropriately” with the situation.

 If Moon accepts the invitation without North Korea promising to abandon its nuclear development, it would constitute a break in international efforts to contain North Korea and cause a serious rift in the solidarity of the three countries.

 “President Moon won’t be able to easily visit North Korea amid the United States’ call for strengthening pressure” on Pyongyang, a Japanese government source said.

 However, there are lingering concerns that Moon could visit North Korea in a manner that would defy the position of both Tokyo and Washington.

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said emphatically at a Friday meeting with Moon, “Dialogue for the sake of dialogue is meaningless,” but the South Korean president did not hide his willingness for dialogue. Improvements in South-North relations and talks must contribute to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Moon said.

 “The Moon administration is essentially ‘pro-North,’” a senior official at the Japanese Foreign Ministry said. “Pyongyang’s repeated dialogue offensives might result in [Moon’s] eventual decision to visit North Korea, even if Japan and the United States continue opposing it.”

Moon nixes Abe’s drill request

By Kentaro Nakajima

Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

 SEOUL — South Korean President Moon Jae In pushed back against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s request at their meeting on Friday to carry out a U.S.-South Korean joint military drill at an early date, a source in the South Korean presidential Blue House said Saturday.

 Moon told Abe it was a matter of domestic politics, according to the source. 

 This exchange highlights the difference in the position of the two leaders. Abe attaches importance to close coordination among Tokyo, Washington and Seoul to pressure Pyongyang, while Moon intends to act as an intermediary for talks between the United States and North Korea by using another postponement of the joint drill as an incentive.

 A decision was made to suspend the drill during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics. 

 According to the source, Abe said at the meeting in Pyeongchang that it was necessary for North Korea to show its sincere will and concrete actions for denuclearization and that it was important to conduct a U.S.-South Korea joint military drill as planned.

 In response, Moon said the timing of the joint drill was an issue of South Korean sovereignty and a matter of its domestic politics. It was a problem that Prime Minister Abe directly referred to the timing, Moon added, according to the source.

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