The leaders of Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed to strengthen pressure on North Korea at a meeting in New York, as Pyongyang shows no sign of stopping its provocative acts. The trilateral party's basic North Korean strategy is to boost economic sanctions and, by doing so, make the North change its attitude and ultimately abandon its nuclear and missile programs.
It will take a long time, but the three countries have no choice but to form a coalition over North Korean threats and drag the secluded state to the negotiating table, since neither unconditional negotiations with Pyongyang nor military action against it is a viable option. To do that, it is necessary to close gaps among countries concerned with the issue. No matter how strong Japan-U.S.-South Korea solidarity may become, it will be meaningless if they grow more distant from China and Russia.
Both U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered stern messages to North Korea in their recent speeches at the United Nations General Assembly. It is crucial for Japan and U.S. to take a uniform approach and for the two countries plus South Korea to unite over North Korean threats. At the same time, the three countries share the view that China and Russia have important roles to play.
However, hasn't the tactic of just pushing policies decided by Tokyo, Washington and Seoul onto Beijing and Moscow proven ineffective? It is time to get out of the Japan-U.S.-South Korea versus China-Russia framework.
In response to Trump's suggestion that the U.S. may take military action, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country will consider the strongest retaliation, and its Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho suggested the North would conduct a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean. It has developed into a dangerous game of provocation one-upmanship.
If war breaks out, those that will suffer the most are the North's neighbors -- South Korea, Japan and China. To avoid this worst case scenario, frank exchanges of each country's opinions are necessary.
China is feeling apprehensive about Trump's remarks and actions. What Abe can do is to emphasize to Washington that war should be avoided at all costs, which could help dispel Beijing's uneasiness. At the same time, Japan can directly ask China to use its powers of persuasion on North Korea, instead of just repeating that the North and U.S. should talk.
The superpowers -- the U.S., China and Russia -- sharing a vision for the future of Northeast Asia will lead to stability in the region. Japan could act as a mediator to achieve that end.
The U.S. expressed appreciation to China and Russia for making compromises at the recent U.N. Security Council meeting over new sanctions on North Korea -- laying the groundwork to jointly manage the risks created by Pyongyang.
The leaders of the five nations will meet in Vietnam at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November. President Trump is also scheduled to visit Japan, China and South Korea. These events will be a great opportunity to hold in-depth discussions on the ongoing North Korean crisis. Quintuple cooperation should be strengthened to inspire a change of heart in Pyongyang.