Japan, United States, South Korea should lead international response to North Korea: The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (left), US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (centre) and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se (right) shaking hands before a meeting at the World Conference Center, on Feb 16, 2017, in Bonn, Germany.
Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (left), US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (centre) and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se (right) shaking hands before a meeting at the World Conference Center, on Feb 16, 2017, in Bonn, Germany.PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on Feb 19, the paper urges Tokyo, Washington and Seoul to lead the international community's efforts to halt Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development.

In order to stop the reckless run of North Korea, the international community must further increase its pressure on Pyongyang. The ones taking the lead in doing so should be Japan, the United States and South Korea.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se in Germany. They issued a trilateral joint statement saying that the ministers "condemned in the strongest terms" North Korea's ballistic missile launch of Feb 12.

Kishida emphasised that "Japan, the United States and South Korea should unite to show firm stances to North Korea and at the same time to lead the responses of the international community."

It was the first time for the foreign ministers of the three countries to meet since the establishment of US President Donald Trump's administration. It is significant that Japan and the US, joined by South Korea, affirmed the strong unity immediately after Japan and the US agreed to strengthen their alliance at the meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump.

Some believe North Korea is nearing completion of a ballistic missile that can reach the US mainland. Having this sense of urgency, Washington appears to have decided to increase military pressure on Pyongyang. Abe pointed out, "The US stance will further toughen."

In order to make North Korea abandon its nuclear and missile development, it is necessary to raise the effectiveness of the encirclement of North Korea by Japan, the US, South Korea, China and other countries.

During the trilateral meeting, the foreign ministers agreed for their countries to cooperate with each other to "ensure that all countries fully and effectively implement all their obligations" regarding the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions on sanctions against North Korea. Especially important are the responses from China, which has supported North Korea by such means as provision of crude oil.

In his talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Kishida said Japan "urges China to respond constructively as a responsible permanent UN Security Council member." The remark is Japan's demand to China to strictly implement sanctions on North Korea, including restrictions on coal imports.

Wang countered, "China is steadily implementing the UN resolutions."

However, one of the factors for not being able to stop North Korea's nuclear and missile development was that China's past implementations of sanctions were imperfect.

China should take this matter seriously and further exert its influence on North Korea in earnest.

In a separate meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Kishida asked Yun to remove a statue of a girl symbolising "comfort women" erected in front of the Japanese Consulate General in Busan.

Yun said regarding the statue: "From the viewpoint of diplomatic protocol, it is inappropriate. (The South Korean government) will make utmost efforts." However, Yun did not make a firm commitment toward the statue's removal.

What is important is not words, but deeds. We urge the South Korean government to quickly approach the private group that erected the statue and the local government to start discussions for its removal.

The temporary pullout of the Ambassador to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine has now been prolonged for more than a month. Especially for Tokyo and Seoul to closely work together on policies against North Korea, the South Korean side is required to make sincere responses.

The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media entities.