Japan Backs Trump With 'Further Action' on North Korea, Pressure on China

Image: This July 28, 2017 picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 29, 2017 shows North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 being launched at an undisclosed place in North Korea.
This July 28 picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 being launched at an undisclosed location. AFP - Getty Images

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
/ Source: Reuters
By Alastair Jamieson

Japan’s prime minister said he “fully agreed” with Donald Trump that China should apply more pressure to North Korea after the president tweeted he was “very disappointed” by Beijing’s response to the latest missile threat.

On Sunday, Shinzo Abe said the two leaders had an “in-depth” conversation and agreed to take “concrete steps to do our utmost in ensuring the public' safety” after Pyongyang launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed in the sea off the coast of Japan — its second test this month.

However, the pair did not discuss military action or any "red line” during their 50-minute conversation, Japanese government officials told reporters, according to Reuters.

The extra pressure came after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, slammed the international community for being “unwilling to seriously challenge” [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un. “The time for talk is over,” she said.

The U.S. and allies flew supersonic bombers and fighter jets over the Korea Peninsula Sunday in a 10-hour show of force and also launched a ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean to test its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) defense system in Alaska.

Analysts said Friday’s test proved that a broader part of the mainland U.S., including Los Angeles, was within range of North Korea missiles. The Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy non-profit, estimated based on available information about the missile test's trajectory that it could "easily reach the U.S. West Coast and a number of major U.S. cities."

Related: How Trump Administration Has Handled the North Korea Crisis

Trump expressed frustration early Sunday, tweeting: “I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet ... they do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”

Later, Japan’s Abe said he and Trump “had a rather in-depth exchange of opinions.”

North Korea has “unilaterally escalated the situation,” he said. “The international community including China and Russia need to gravely accept such concrete facts and should apply more pressure. President Trump and I fully agreed that we need to take further action."

He added: “Under the strong resolve of the U.S.-Japan alliance, in order to further improve our defense posture and our capabilities, we will take concrete steps to do our utmost in ensuring the public' safety from the North Korean threat."

China’s foreign ministry said Monday it was “firmly committed” to “solving the problem through dialogue and negotiation.”

In a statement responding to Trump’s comments about China making “hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade,” it said Washington-Beijing trade relations were “mutually beneficial and win-win.”

“A large number of facts have proved that maintaining the healthy and stable development of Sino-U.S. economic and trade relations is in line with the common interests of both sides,” it said.

North Korea’s foreign ministry called the U.S. “imperialist brutes” and said it would not hesitate to use nuclear force if Washington took “foolish” action.

“The U.S. should clearly understand the strategic position of [North Korea], which has become a world nuclear power … and wake up from the foolish dream of doing any harm to [North Korea],” the statement said, according to state-run news agency KCNA.

“If the U.S. fails to come to its own senses and continues to resort to military adventure and ‘tough sanctions’ then [North Korea] will respond with its resolute act of justice,” it said.

Alastair Jamieson reported from London, and Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo.

Arata Yamamoto contributed.