Japanese foreign policy experts worry that Washington could cut a deal with Pyongyang that limits its intercontinental ballistic missile program but leaves North Korea with shorter-range missiles that could strike Tokyo. The Japanese government is also demanding that Pyongyang come clean about the fate of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, an issue that incites considerable concern among the Japanese public.
In a meeting with Abe, Pompeo said that Japan’s concerns would be addressed and that he wanted to make sure the two countries were “fully in sync” with regard to missile programs, as well as chemical and biological weapons.
“We will bring up the issue of the abductees as well,” he said. “And then we will share with you how we hope to proceed when we are in Pyongyang tomorrow. So we will have a fully coordinated, unified view of how to proceed, which will be what is needed if we are going to be successful on denuclearizing North Korea.”
Abe said he appreciated that Pompeo had come to Japan before going to Pyongyang for talks on North Korea’s nuclear program.
Speaking on the plane on his way to a refueling stop in Alaska, Pompeo said his mission was “to make sure that we understand what each side is truly trying to achieve” and how “each side is seeking to approach that, and how we can deliver against the commitments that were made.”
“Each side has to develop sufficient trust so they can take the actions necessary to get to the end,” he said, adding that he was also trying to set up the next Trump-Kim summit.
“So we hope to, at least — I doubt we will get it nailed — but begin to develop options for both location and timing for when Chairman Kim will meet with the president again,” he said. “Maybe we will get further than that.”
After a summit between the leaders of the two Koreas last month, Kim said he was prepared to permanently dismantle his country’s main nuclear site at Yongbyon, but only if the United States took “corresponding steps” to build trust.
At the time, it appeared that meant a declaration to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War, a signal that hostilities between the two countries were over. But during the past few days, Pyongyang appears to have increased its demands, signaling that it may also want an easing of sanctions before moving forward.
Pompeo has said that sanctions will be lifted only after North Korea fully and verifiably dismantles its nuclear weapons program.
Washington is believed to have asked North Korea to supply a list of its nuclear and missile facilities as a next step, but South Korea’s government says the North is not prepared to meet this demand.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told The Washington Post last week that Seoul believed that such a list could spark a long argument between Pyongyang and Washington over verification, which would not be conducive for building trust.
Instead, she said, Seoul favors a “different approach,” in which each side takes “chunks of action” to build trust, such as the dismantling of Yongbyon in return for U.S. steps such as an end-of-war declaration.
In an editorial on Thursday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea, argued that the United States should not focus on maintaining sanctions but instead on building confidence between the two nations “with a sincere attitude.”
“The U.S. invented the sanctions against the DPRK under unreasonable pretexts and tries to keep them at a time when the pretexts are removed,” it wrote, accusing Washington of “brigandish and frivolous” misbehavior. North Korea refers to itself as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK.
Washington and Pyongyang, it wrote, are “kindling a glimmer” of hope for the improvement of bilateral ties. “It is high time that each side makes efforts towards trust-building.”