SINGAPORE: Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono has called on the international community not to be blinded by North Korea’s ongoing “charm offensive”.
This comes just days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in was invited by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to a summit in Pyongyang.
The invitation was conveyed by Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who is in South Korea for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang - the landmark visit leading to an easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Mr Kono’s comments follow a three-day visit to Singapore and Brunei - the first by a Japanese foreign minister in five years.
On Monday (Feb 12), Mr Kono met his Singapore counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan over breakfast, where both leaders agreed to maximise pressure on North Korea by fully implementing United Nations Security Council resolutions.
They were also of the view that the international community needs to be united on this front.
“North Korea’s nuclear and missile development continues to be an unprecedented, imminent and great threat to the international community,” stressed Mr Toshihide Ando, deputy press secretary of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during a media briefing.
He said that both foreign ministers agreed to tackle illicit ship-to-ship transfers of cargo, pointing out that Southeast Asia, like other regions, should not be a loophole for North Korea to evade sanctions.
Mr Kono’s visit takes place as Singapore assumes chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year. This also coincides with the 45th anniversary of dialogue relations between the regional grouping and Japan.
During the meeting, Dr Balakrishnan expressed appreciation for Japan’s contribution to ASEAN’s development over the years and said that he looked forward to working together to further cooperation during Singapore’s chairmanship.
Ways for Singapore and Japan to expand cooperation in areas like air connectivity, innovation and digital technology were also discussed.
Later in the day, Mr Kono called on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Both men reaffirmed the close and longstanding relations between Singapore and Japan, which are underpinned by robust economic and business links.
Mr Lee also commended Japan's leadership in concluding negotiations on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The trade pact is set to be signed by 11 countries, including Japan and Singapore, after the United States pulled out of the original deal.
Singapore’s foreign affairs ministry added that Prime Minister Lee looked forward to strengthening cooperation through a review of the Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement.
Mr Kono also conveyed his country’s interest in the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed rail project and asked for Singapore’s cooperation.