North Korean nuclear tests

Trump and Abe speak about North Korea tensions as Japanese warships join US carrier strike group for drills

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 11:52am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 11:52am

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump agreed in telephone talks Monday morning to keep urging North Korea, which continues to pursue nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development, to exercise self-restraint.

“I had an in-depth exchange of views with President Trump about the situation in North Korea,” Abe told reporters after the leaders’ third such conversation this month.

“We completely agreed to strongly seek self-restraint from North Korea, which is still continuing its dangerous provocative acts,” Abe said at the prime minister’s office.

“The issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile (development) is an extremely grave threat to security, not just for the international community but also for Japan.

North Korea is thought to be preparing to conduct further test-firings of missiles or a sixth nuclear test, possibly around the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army on Tuesday.

Trump will also have a telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a White House official said in Washington on Sunday.

Abe also told Trump that he strongly endorses the US leader’s position that all options, including military action, are “on the table” in dealing with North Korea’s pursuit of development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, which violates UN Security Council resolutions.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force and US Navy began Sunday joint strategic maneuver and communication drills involving two Japanese destroyers and the US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, which is headed for waters off the Korean Peninsula.

There had been confusion over the exact timing of the move northward to the Sea of Japan (East Sea) by the Carl Vinson Strike Group, which includes the aircraft carrier, two guided-missile destroyers and a cruiser, following a U.S. Navy announcement on April 8 that conflicted with subsequent report“We will keep dealing with (the issue) by continuing to coordinate closely with the United States and maintaining advanced surveillance and warning readiness,” Abe said.

North Korea has said it is in the final stages of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit mainland US targets. Targets in Japan are within range of its shorter-range missiles, but their test-firing history has been checkered with failures.

Abe and Trump agreed in a telephone conversation on April 9 to further cooperate on the threat posed by North Korea, according to the White House.

US Vice-President Mike Pence elaborated on this during a visit to Tokyo last week. He said on Trump’s behalf that the United States is with Japan “100 per cent” in “these challenging times.”

Pence reiterated the stance that the era of “strategic patience” advocated by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama is over, and that while the United States and Japan both “seek peace always,” that peace “comes through strength.”

Abe and Pence agreed at a working lunch that they will urge China to play a greater role in preventing further provocation by North Korea.