Japan’s defence minister has urged the international community to keep sanctions and surveillance on North Korea, saying it has a history of reneging on agreements.
Itsunori Onodera said North Korea agreed to give up nuclear weapons as early as 1994, but has continued to develop them in secret and until last year threatened surrounding countries with a series of ballistic missile launches.
“In light of how North Korea has behaved in the past, I believe that it is important not to reward North Korea solely for agreeing to have a dialogue,” he said.
“We have seen history repeat, where North Korea would declare to denuclearise, thereby portraying itself as conciliatory and forthcoming, only to turn around to void all international efforts towards peace.”
The comments by Japan‘s defence chief marked a sharp contrast with his South Korean counterpart, who said there was no reason to doubt the sincerity of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Song Young-moo said: “Just because we have been tricked by North Korea in the past doesn’t guarantee that we will be tricked in the future. If we believe that, we will never be able to negotiate with them and make peace with them.”
The South Korean defence minister said that if the talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons are successful, they could be compared with the 1989 Malta Summit between former President George H W Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, less than a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
China has also given the talks its approval.
The country’s foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its official WeChat account that it viewed the meeting between the United States and North Korean leaders as key to achieving denuclearisation and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The Japanese and South Korean defence ministers were speaking at an international security conference in Singapore, which is set to host the landmark summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un on June 12.
The comments in Singapore came as Trump confirmed the June 12 talks were officially back on after initially cancelling the summit and days of ambiguity on whether it would be reinstated.
Trump made the announcement on Friday, following a two-hour-long meeting with North Korean senior official Kim Yong-chol at the White House.
While admitting that dealing with North Korea was “going to be a process”, Trump said he believed the effort would ultimately be “successful.”
However, the US leader ruled out signing anything at the June 12 meeting.
Kim Yong-chol delivered a letter from the North Korean leader to Trump during their meeting at the Oval Office.
Trump told reporters after the end of the meeting that he had not yet read the letter.