Japan DPM Taro Aso cancels US trip due to North Korea situation

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso speaks at Columbia Business School in New York City, on April 19, 2017.
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso speaks at Columbia Business School in New York City, on April 19, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Friday (Sept 1) that he is cancelling a planned trip to the United States for preparatory economic talks because of national security uncertainties posed by North Korea.

North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan and landed in waters off the northern region of Hokkaido early on Tuesday, marking a sharp escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Mr Aso's visit had been scheduled for Sept 4-6, which would coincide with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono's planned visit to the Russia's Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Sept 6-7 to attend an economic forum.

"We don't know what will happen to North Korea. (Abe) instructed me to stay in Japan to take all possible care because of the strained security situation," Mr Aso told a news conference after a Cabinet meeting.

Mr Aso said he would continue to arrange with the US side to hold the second round of the bilateral economic dialogue, which he said was likely to take place in October after annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund.

Mr Aso and US Vice-President Mike Pence have led the US-Japan economic dialogue, which was launched in April to exchange views on trade, investment and economic policy issues.

The US side told Mr Aso that they "hope to hold constructive talks in the second round", Mr Aso added.

However, some analysts worry that Mr Trump's administration, which is facing growing domestic turmoil, could pile pressure on trading partners for concessions that would boost US exports under his "America First" policy.

The upcoming talks could also include the issue of safeguard tariffs Japan has imposed on frozen beef from the US and some other countries.

Mr Aso brushed off speculation that a controversy kicked up by his references to Adolf Hitler in remarks earlier this week played any part in the decision to cancel next week's visit to the US.