Tokyo, May 5 (Nikkei): Japan and China will cooperate closely to ensure North Korea denuclearizes, their leaders agreed Friday, as Beijing searches for ways to stay involved in the peace process even as Washington moves in.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for around 40 minutes in their first-ever telephone call. As “leaders responsible for regional peace and stability,” the pair look to continue communicating on “a variety of topics,” using the opportunity to “develop close ties,” Abe said after the talk wrapped up. Xi said the call “is another sign of the recent, positive turn in Sino-Japanese relations.”
The subject of North Korea dominated the conversation. Both leaders praised the goal of complete de-neuclearization of the Koran Peninsula laid out in the Panmunjom Declaration from last week’s historic summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Tokyo also stands to benefit from such an association. Abe and Xi agreed in their call that their countries would cooperate on the matter of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago, some of whom have never returned home. While Pyongyang has in the past agreed to investigate the fate of these abductees, progress has stalled in recent years.
China looks to arrange four-party talks with the U.S. and the two Koreas aimed at converting the 1953 armistice that ended hostilities in the Korean War into a formal treaty. China’s Foreign Ministry reports that Moon said in a call with Xi on Friday that he wished to strengthen cooperation with China on resolving the North Korean issue through dialogue. Xi in turn said China hopes to help establish lasting peace in the region, and relayed comments from Kim that the North wants to end the peninsula’s “history of hostility,” according to South Korean sources.
Abe and Xi also agreed to strictly comply with a United Nations Security Council resolution placing stiff economic sanctions on the North, including by cracking down on ship-to-ship transfer of precious commodities such as oil that have been used to evade embargoes. Some ships involved are flagged in mainland China and Hong Kong.
“We must push North Korea hard to take specific actions” toward denuclearization, Abe told Xi. The Chinese president in turn brought his counterpart up to date on discussions between China and North Korea, including those from his March meeting with Kim.
The two sides agreed to continue improving relations when leaders from China, Japan and South Korea meet in Tokyo on Wednesday. That event will mark Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s first visit to Japan in seven years.
(The featured at the top shows Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe)