Abe, Trump see North Korea as ‘growing direct threat’


TOKYO/WASHINGTON – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump have agreed that they see North Korea as a “growing direct threat,” according to a White House statement issued late Sunday.

The two leaders spoke on the phone to discuss Pyongyang’s second launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the two countries confirmed.

“The two leaders agreed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, Japan, Republic of Korea [South Korea] and other countries near and far,” the US statement said.

During the phone call, Abe and Trump committed to increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, and to “convincing other countries to follow suit.”

President Trump also reaffirmed a commitment to defend Japan and South Korea from any attack, the statement added, saying the country would use its “full range of capabilities.”

In Japan, Abe said he and Trump also agreed that the two countries need to take fresh action to tackle North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

“I completely agreed with President Trump on the recognition that we must take further action,” Abe told reporters on Monday following the 50-minute phone conversation.

North Korea launched an ICBM late Friday, with experts saying Pyongyang now has the ability to hit major US cities.

The reclusive nation successfully tested its first ICBM on July 4 despite international condemnation and calls for dialogue.

“We have made repeated efforts to resolve the North Korean issue peacefully, coordinating between Japan and the United States and with the international community, but North Korea has trampled all over these efforts and unilaterally escalated the situation,” the premier said.

“China, Russia and the rest of the international community must take seriously this undeniable fact and increase their pressure,” Abe added.

Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said Abe and Trump agreed on the importance of Beijing and Moscow in forcing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear and missile programmes.

The United States flew two bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of might against North Korea’s recent launches, US Pacific Air Forces said.

The B-1B bombers joined with fighter jets from Japan and South Korea for the 10-hour mission, the Pacific Air Forces said.