Japanese foreign minister urges united front against North Korea during Singapore visit

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hosting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono during the latter's visit to Singapore, on Feb 12, 2018. PHOTO: MCI SINGAPORE
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono speaking with his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan during breakfast on Feb 12, 2018. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SINGAPORE - Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono urged South-east Asia not to let up its pressure on North Korea, during his visit to Singapore on Monday (Feb 12).

His efforts to shore up a united front against North Korea come amid a detente between Seoul and Pyongyang at the ongoing Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Countries should not be blinded by North Korea's charm offensive, said Mr Kono during a breakfast meeting with his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan.

Singapore and Japan also agreed to tackle the issue of ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels at sea in breach of international sanctions,

"They agreed that South-east Asia should not be allowed to be loopholes for North Korea to evade sanctions," Japanese deputy foreign ministry spokesman Toshihide Ando told reporters after the visit.

The two foreign ministers also agreed to maximise pressure on North Korea by fully implementing United Nations Security Council resolutions, said Mr Ando. They were also of the view that the international community should be united in fully implementing these resolutions, he added.

Mr Kono's visit to Singapore is the first by a Japanese foreign minister in five years.

During their breakfast meeting, the two ministers also discussed other regional issues including free trade and Asean.

Dr Balakrishnan expressed appreciation for Japan's contributions to Asean's development over the years, and said he looked forward to working together to further deepen and broaden Asean-Japan cooperation during Singapore's chairmanship, said Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Mr Kono also called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana. They discussed the two regional trade pacts in the works which Singapore and Japan are part of - the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Asean-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

PM Lee commended Japan's leadership in concluding the CPTPP negotiations, MFA said in a statement. He said he looks forward to strengthening economic cooperation with Japan, through a review of the Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement

Mr Kono noted that Singapore's chairmanship of Asean this year coincides with the 45th anniversary of Asean-Japan dialogue relations, and said Japan looks forward to working closely with Singapore, according to MFA.

Singapore-Japan issues

The two foreign ministers also discussed greater cooperation between Singapore and Japan in air connectivity, innovation and digital technology, said MFA.

Japan is competing with several other countries to build the multi-billion-dollar Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail, for which bids must be submitted by the middle of this year.

Mr Kono "conveyed Japan's interest in the project and asked for cooperation from Singapore", said Mr Ando.

Singapore and Japan will also explore ways of improving and promoting the 20-year-old Japan-Singapore Partnership Programme 21 (JSPP21).

Under the JSPP21, both countries jointly run training courses for developing countries in areas such as maritime safety and community policing.

On Monday, Mr Kono also visited the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore's port operations control centre, where he was briefed on the Singapore-Japan maritime cooperation.

Said Dr Balakrishnan on Facebook after the meeting: "Our two countries share a longstanding and close friendship, and I look forward to deepening our cooperation in the years ahead."

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