U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Friday to boost pressure against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK, lodging expanded sanctions on the country over its continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, according to Washington.
The statement from the two allies comes despite South Korean President Moon Jae-in's pursuit of an engagement policy with the DPRK, put into practice for the first time Friday as the government approved cross-border civilian exchanges to treat malaria cases in the DPRK.
Pyongyang's repeated missile tests in the past year have prompted an array of countries to line up behind Washington's calls for tougher sanctions meant to isolate the country and force it to disarm.
Meeting before a G7 summit, Trump and Abe dedicated much of their discussion to the issue, aides said.
"President Trump and Prime Minister Abe agreed their teams would cooperate to enhance sanctions on North Korea, including by identifying and sanctioning entities that support North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs," the White House said in a statement.
Trump pontificated about the alleged dangers of the DPRK's ability to hit the United States with a nuclear missile, a capability experts have sought to hype up.
"It is very much on our minds ... It's a big problem, it's a world problem and it will be solved. At some point, it will be solved. You can bet on that," Trump told reporters, sitting alongside Abe.
Abe is an advocate of nationalist policies, including the rearmament of Japan as a means to cope with alleged “security threats” in the region, the DPRK and China foremost among them. Regional observers have accused Japan of playing up the dangers of the North Korean weapons program as a pretext to drop the pacifist Article 9 of its post-war constitution.
Norio Maruyama, a spokesman for Abe, said his prime minister had demanded at the G7 that the so-called “international community” must put pressure on Pyongyang. The Japanese head of state also included China in his statement.
Most of the DPRK's trade is with its ally China, and so any hard-hitting secondary sanctions would likely target Chinese firms. Maruyama did not say exactly what sanctions were being considered.
China, while expressing its own differences with the DPRK — especially regarding its work on the nuclear deterrent — last week unequivocally denounced similar sanctions on Iranian and Chinese parties allegedly involved in the Iran's ballistic missile program.
"The Chinese side is always opposed to unilateral sanctions, to the frequent implementation of unilateral sanctions, especially when it hurts interests of third parties," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news briefing last Thursday.
"China is opposed to the blind use of unilateral sanctions particularly when it damages the interests of third parties. I think the sanctions are unhelpful in enhancing mutual trust and unhelpful for international efforts on this issue," Hua said.