Obama, Japan PM firm on N Korea, measured on China
WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Friday pledged with Japan to take a firm line on a defiant North Korea while apparently seeking to calm rising tensions between Tokyo and Beijing.
Obama promised to work closely with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who came to Washington in hopes of sending a strong signal of unity two months after his conservative Liberal Democratic Party swept back to power.
“You can rest assured that you will have a strong partner in the United States throughout your tenure,” Obama told Abe in the Oval Office, calling the alliance with Japan “the central foundation” for US policy in Asia.
Obama said the two leaders discussed “our concerns about the provocative actions that have been taken by North Korea and our determination to take strong actions in response.”
North Korea on February 12 carried out its third nuclear test, ignoring warnings even from its ally China. Recently released satellite images have indicated that North Korea has again resumed activity at the testing site.
Abe, who first rose to political prominence as an advocate for a tough line on North Korea, said he agreed with Obama’s position of not offering “rewards” to Pyongyang and on the need for a new UN Security Council resolution.
“We just cannot tolerate the actions of North Korea, such as launching missiles and conducting a nuclear test,” Abe said.
But the White House appeared to want to lower the temperature between Japan and China, which has increasingly sent vessels near Japanese-controlled islands known as the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
Obama did not mention the issue, hours after Beijing lashed out at Abe over a newspaper interview in which he charged that China would eventually hurt its investment climate through assertive actions in the region.
Abe said the US-Japan alliance was “a stabilising factor” and – in remarks he nudged his translator to read out – added: “We have always been dealing with the Senkaku issue in a calm manner and we will continue to do so.”
The exchange marked a different tone than one month ago, when then secretary of state Hillary Clinton warned China not to challenge Japan’s control of the islands, triggering a rebuke from Beijing.