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North Korea nuclear crisis

Japan, US and South Korea ‘plan to denuclearise North Korea by 2020’ despite Kim Jong-un’s hopes for slow change in exchange for benefits

Japan believes setting a target before the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will help create momentum for the plan, sources said

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 2:54am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 7:22am

A plan being floated among Japan, the United States and South Korea is aimed at the complete denuclearisation of North Korea by the summer of 2020, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday, in a rejection of Pyongyang’s “phased, synchronised” approach in exchange for benefits.

The three countries are seeking an early end to Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles after past attempts allowed North Korea incremental incentives to halt its nuclear programme and led Pyongyang to buy time and further develop nuclear weapons, the sources close to Japan-US relations said.

The time frame for North Korea’s denuclearisation may be addressed during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to the United States this week for talks with US President Donald Trump, the sources said. 

The two leaders are set to discuss a road map toward the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation” of North Korea.

Trump is apparently eager to push for the denuclearisation of North Korea soon so that he can score diplomatic victories ahead of the presidential election in November 2020.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are expected to meet for the first-ever US-North Korea summit, possibly by the end of May.

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Japan believes setting a target before the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in the summer of 2020 will help create momentum for denuclearisation, the sources said.

Tokyo is hoping that a resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue will lead to progress on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang decades ago, the sources said.

Kim proposed the “phased, synchronised” approach toward denuclearisation at his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on March 26, according to the Chinese government.

The approach suggests that Kim will not agree to denuclearisation steps without benefits such as an easing of sanctions or the provision of economic assistance.

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In previous talks with Japan, the United States denied such an “action for action” approach had been pursued previously and said it envisioned a package agreement under which it will assure North Korea that it is not seeking regime change in exchange for Pyongyang’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation, the sources said.

The United States also touched on a target date of around the summer of 2020 during the consultations, while other possible goals such as within 2018 or within a year after a US-North Korea agreement have also been floated among Japan, the United States and South Korea, the sources said.

Meanwhile, some Japanese, US and South Korean officials concede that making concessions to North Korea to a certain degree is unavoidable in order for Pyongyang to take steps towards denuclearisation, including disabling nuclear facilities and readmitting inspectors, the sources said.