US President Donald Trump said on Monday he had spoken with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about North Korea and trade after North Korea raised doubts about the future of denuclearisation dialogue with new weapons tests.
In a tweet, Trump described his talk to Abe, a close ally, as a “very good conversation!” but gave no other details.
Abe, speaking to reporters after his phone call Monday with Trump, said their countries will seek complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula by coordinating bilateral efforts “completely”.
“President Trump and I agreed completely on every aspect of how we should deal with North Korea,” Abe told reporters, according to the Kyodo news agency.
Trump and his administration have played down the North Korean weapons tests, which took place on Saturday, and which military analysts say could have involved short-range, ground-to-ground ballistic missiles.
If the weapons were ballistic missiles, they would have been the first fired by North Korea since its 2017 freeze in nuclear and missile testing opened the way for dialogue with the US and South Korea.
Analysts interpreted the tests as an attempt to exert pressure on Washington to give ground in denuclearisation negotiations after a February summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended in failure.
In a Twitter message on Saturday, Trump said he was still confident he could reach a deal with Kim.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that Washington still had “every intention” of negotiating with North Korea. Pompeo said he and Trump spoke about the launches on Saturday and were “evaluating the appropriate response”.
“But … we’re going to exhaust every diplomatic opportunity there is,” he told CBS news. “We still believe there is a path forward where Chairman Kim can denuclearise without resort to anything beyond diplomacy.”
Pompeo said the launches were “short-range” and that Washington had “high confidence” they did not involve intermediate-range missiles, or intercontinental missiles that threaten the US. He said they had not crossed any international boundaries and posed no threat to South Korea or Japan.
North Korea’s official media described the tests as a “strike drill” supervised by Kim to test “large-calibre long-range multiple-rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons”.
Separately on Monday, the State Department took aim at North Korea’s human rights record, saying that the government there had subjected its people to “egregious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” and that the United States remained “gravely concerned and deeply troubled” by the abuses.
“Approximately 100,000 individuals languish in political prison camps and their family members and children often suffer by their sides. Further, those trying to flee this oppressive environment, if caught, are often tortured or killed,” it said.
Last week, the United Nations said 10.1 million people in North Korea are suffering from severe food insecurity.
A World Food Programme spokesman said the word “famine” was not being used in the current crisis, but it might come to that in a few months or years. “The situation is very serious today – that’s a fact.”