Japan officials to work together on North Korea

REUTERS               Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad

REUTERS Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad

In contrast with South Korea, where President Moon Jae-in has been at the forefront of encouraging Trump's rapprochement with the North, Japan has been decidedly cautious, insisting its interests and concerns be addressed.

Prior to leaving Tokyo, Japan, for the North Korean capital, Pompeo had tweeted that he was heading to Pyongyang "to meet with Chairman Kim", suggesting that the United States had confirmed in advance that the North Korean leader would meet the US secretary of state.

Pompeo and Kim also agreed to form a working group "at an early date" to discuss the denuclearization process and the second summit, which Kim proposed to U.S. President Donald Trump in a letter last month, according to Moon's press secretary Yoon Young-chan.

"Yeah, so we had a great, great visit this morning", Pompeo replied. The United States has called for a comprehensive accord and strict enforcement of sanctions on North Korea in the meantime.

During Pompeo's meeting in Pyongyang, Kim invited inspectors to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to "confirm that it has been irreversibly dismantled", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The top United States diplomat offered no details, and, upon landing in South Korea, he briefed White House national security adviser John Bolton and Trump chief of staff John Kelly on his trip, officials said.

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Pompeo will be in Tokyo Saturday and Sunday and has already met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe there.

Japan, which has seen North Korean missiles fly over its territory and been threatened with annihilation, has historically taken a hard line on Pyongyang and stressed the need to maintain pressure on the regime. Japan, notably, has been wary of Trump's initiative, fearing it could affect its long-standing security relationship with the U.S.

Pompeo is to wrap up his trip with a visit to Beijing today.

"I dearly hope that your latest visit, as well as the upcoming US-North Korea summit, which I hope will be happening soon, will make irreversible, decisive progress in terms of the denuclearization as well as the peace process", Moon said.

But even USA ally South Korea is looking for exemptions on sanctions after Moon and Kim announced a list of inter-Korean projects to work on together when they met in September, including reopening roads and railways, and creating new economic zones.

North and South Korean leaders said that the North will permanently close its missile test site and dismantle its main nuclear facility if the United States takes corresponding measures under a deal struck at the inter-Korean summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jai-in last month.

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In a tweet, Pompeo later said: "We continue to make progress on agreements made at Singapore Summit".

"It's a very nice day that promises a good future for both countries", Kim said through an interpreter at the dining table.

North Korea's state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, featured eight photos of the meeting on its front page, including shots of Kim and Pompeo smiling and shaking hands, as well as some with Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong.

In their meeting, Abe and Pompeo agreed to urge North Korea to take concrete steps toward denuclearization and to coordinate their policies aimed at compelling that outcome.

Moon had his own third summit with Kim last month in Pyongyang, which was partly meant to help salvage the stumbling negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington, after Trump, citing lack of progress, called off Pompeo's planned visit to the North in late August. He also pledged that during his meeting with Kim on Sunday, he would raise the cases of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. Instead, they want both sides to take a "phased" approach, in which Pyongyang is rewarded as it takes gradual steps to roll back its nuclear program.

South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha has given a hint of what a grand bargain between the two countries could look like.

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