TOKYO (AFP, REUTERS) - Japan’s prime minister on Friday (March 9) welcomed the surprise announcement of a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un by May.
"I highly appreciate North Korea’s change that it will begin talks on the premise of denuclearisation,” Mr Shinzo Abe said, adding that he planned to visit the United States to meet Mr Trump “as early as April”.
Japan has been cautious about a recent Olympics-driven rapprochement on the Korean peninsula, with Mr Abe warning as recently as Thursday that “talks for the sake of talks are meaningless”.
But he sounded a positive note on the planned Trump-Kim summit, hailing it as “the achievement of cooperation between... Japan, the US, and South Korea to maintain great pressure”.
“There is no change in policy for Japan and the United States,” he added. “We will keep putting maximum pressure (on North Korea) until North Korea takes concrete actions toward denuclearisation in a manner that is perfect, verifiable and irreversible.”
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said that North Korea must commit to abandoning nuclear development completely in order for meaningful talks to take place with Pyongyang.
A meeting between Kim and Trump, who have exchanged bellicose insults in the past year that have raised fear of war, would mark a dramatic breakthrough in efforts to resolve the tense standoff over North Korea's effort to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
The White House said Mr Trump will accept the invitation to meet Mr Kim at a place and time to be determined.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: "President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined."
"We look forward to the denuclearisation of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain," she said in a statement.