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President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House on February 10, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, worried about being sidelined at a proposed meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, wants its own talks with the rogue state.
That could ultimately be beneficial for Pyongyang.
Abe is likely proposing this summit because he doesn’t want Trump and Kim to reach a deal that doesn’t suit Japan’s security concerns, according to experts.
Tokyo has made efforts to reach out to Pyongyang ever since it got wind that Trump accepted Kim’s invitation to meet, said Lisa Collins, fellow with the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “They don’t want to be left out of any sort of deal that would be made, and they’re very anxious to get their foot in the door.”
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Tokyo was considering seeking an Abe-Kim meeting to discuss North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.
Tokyo has long demanded complete denuclearization from the pariah state, but that might not be on the table at the Trump-Kim summit.
If, for example, the White House agrees to let North Korea have low-level nuclear capability in exchange for a halt on intercontinental ballistic missile development, that would be acceptable to Washington but still leave Tokyo in the range of Pyongyang’s weapons, said Stephen Nagy, a professor at Tokyo-based International Christian University and distinguished fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.
Abe also wants to ensure a safe return for the kidnapped Japanese citizens, who may still be alive, Nagy continued.