TAORMINA, Italy -- U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his strong desire to resolve issues posed by North Korea as the secluded nation has been pushing forward with its nuclear and missile development programs, during bilateral talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe here on May 26.
"It's a world problem and it will be solved at some point. It will be solved, you can bet on that," Trump said at the outset of the meeting, apparently aiming to keep North Korea in check by hinting at possible military action by the United States against the country.
In response, Prime Minister Abe said, "I would like to affirm in this meeting that we will forge firm cooperation over not just the North Korean issue but also various challenges across the globe." Their meeting lasted for nearly one hour, though it had initially been scheduled for 30 minutes.
By holding the bilateral meeting ahead of the opening of the Group of Seven (G-7) summit, Abe apparently aimed to give the international community the impression that the situation surrounding North Korea is a global challenge worth being discussed as a key agenda at the G-7 summit. The Japanese prime minister apparently aspired to turn the summit into an opportunity to increase pressure on North Korea by seeking agreement from other G-7 allies after cementing Japan-U.S. footing through the bilateral talks.
Abe was apparently also frustrated with the fact that coordination among Japan, the U.S. and South Korea -- including the dispatch of the USS Carl Vinson to waters near the Korean Peninsula -- has not resulted in thwarting North Korea's provocative actions.
North Korea launched a ballistic missile in February to coincide with Japan-U.S. summit talks in Washington. This was followed by seven additional rounds of missile launches, with one of them reaching 2,000 kilometers-plus in altitude for the first time on May 14. Tokyo and Washington believe that behind the North's continued acts of provocations lies the failure in the international community to take concerted measures against the North, with China, a close ally of North Korea, maintaining its stance of attaching weight to dialogue with the country.
At the G-7 summit meeting, where four of the seven leaders made their debut at the G-7 table, Prime Minister Abe recounted how Pyongyang has continued to break its promises despite economic support it received in return for denuclearization. Abe insisted that a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for "tough measures" against Pyongyang would be necessary if the country continued with its provocative acts such as launching intercontinental ballistic missiles, and other leaders expressed support for the proposal. By sharing the security threat posed by North Korea among G-7 leaders, Abe apparently aimed to have China increasingly pressed to stay in line with the international community.
Some observers point out, however, that it remains unclear how far European countries, which are deepening economic ties with China, would keep in step with the Japan-U.S. policy line of applying further pressure on North Korea.