President Trump has phoned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss a ‘coordinated response’ against North Korea amid rising tensions with the communist country.
The phone conversation, which took place on Saturday morning, lasted about 75 minutes and comes amid Kim Jong-un’s growing frustrations about restrictive sanctions imposed on his country by the United States.
Following the chat, Prime Minister Abe told Nikkei Asian Review: ‘We [he and Trump] analyzed the latest developments regarding North Korea and had a thorough discussion about the steps ahead.’
Japan, a staunch ally of the US, has been at the center of North Korea’s ire in recent months.
The two countries are only separated by 600 miles of ocean, and back in August North Korea fired two ballistic missiles over the Sea of Japan.
Then, in October, Tokyo said a part of another North Korea-launched missile had landed in waters within their country’s exclusive economic zone – a 124-mile band around Japanese territory
President Trump has phoned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss a ‘coordinated response’ against North Korea amid rising tensions with the communist country
American officials are worried that North Korea could soon unveil a ‘Christmas surprise’ in the form of a missile test similar to the launch of its intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 (above) in July 2017
Last month, tensions between the two countries hit new heights, when Prime Minister Abe claimed the country had dropped a ballistic missile into their territory, violating UN resolutions.
North Korea denied the claim, saying they were only testing a ‘multiple launch rocket system’. They then warned that Japan could see ‘a real ballistic missile’ coming their way soon.
‘It can be said that Abe is the only one idiot in the world and the most stupid man ever known in history as he fails to distinguish a missile from multiple launch rocket system,’ a foreign ministry official said in a statement.
Meanwhile, North Korea has also been taunting the US, ominously saying that the country should expect a ‘Christmas surprise’.
On Saturday, The New York Times reported that ‘American military and intelligence officials are tracking North Korea’s actions by the hour… bracing for an imminent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching American shores’.
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted what US officials say was an engine test which may have involved an engine for a space launch vehicle or long-range missile.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a joint statement in 2018 that said the North ‘commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’ – but so far things are not working out
Officials worry that it could be a prelude to the possible launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in the coming days or weeks.
Any test involving an ICBM would have the most serious impact on the diplomatic effort because it would be considered a move by North Korea to acquire the ability to strike the United States, or, even worse, to show they already have it.
‘North Korea has been advancing. It has been building new capabilities,’ said Anthony Wier, a former State Department official who tracks nuclear disarmament for the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
‘As long as that continues, they gain new capabilities to try new missiles to threaten us and our allies in new ways.’
The North Koreans warned of a possible ‘Christmas gift’ in early December, saying the Trump administration was running out of time to salvage nuclear negotiations, and it was up to the US to choose what ‘Christmas gift’ it gets from the North.
Victor Cha, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a review of the possible launch sites in North Korea show that they are ‘basically ready to go.’
He said the expected launch could be a test of a sea-based ballistic missile or a solid-fuel rocket.
So far, North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un (seen above) has refused American proposals to decommission the country’s nuclear program
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters last week that the US has heard all the talk of a possible upcoming test around Christmas.
‘I’ve been watching the Korean Peninsula for a quarter-century now. I’m familiar with their tactics, with their bluster,’ he said.
‘We need to get serious and sit down and have discussions about a political agreement that denuclearizes the peninsula.
‘That is the best way forward and arguably the only way forward if we´re going to do something constructive.’
‘We are fully aware of the strong potential for North Korea to conduct a major provocation in the days ahead,’ he said.
‘To say the least, such an action will be most unhelpful in achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.’
At a meeting in Singapore in June 2018, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a joint statement that said the North ‘commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.’
But negotiations stalled this year after the US rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of the North’s nuclear capabilities at Kim’s second summit with Trump last February.
Since then, Pyongyang’s testing and rhetoric has escalated.
Since the Singapore summit, Cha said, Pyongyang has done more testing and grown their missile capabilities.
‘By most metrics, the Trump policy is not succeeding,’ he said.
According to the US military, North Korea has launched more than 20 missiles this year.