Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a meeting in New York on Sept. 21. (Takeshi Iwashita)

  • Photo/Illustraion

NEW YORK--The leaders of Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed on Sept. 21 to apply even greater pressure on North Korea to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

“Through cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea as well as by joining with the international community, we will apply an unprecedented higher level of pressure on North Korea to force it to change policy,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

During their talks that lasted for about an hour, the three leaders agreed to lobby other U.N. member nations, including China and Russia, which have called for greater dialogue with North Korea, to fully implement a U.N. Security Council agreement concerning North Korea. The agreement calls for tougher economic sanctions on Pyongyang, including restrictions on petroleum exports.

At the start of the meeting, Trump announced new sanctions that the United States would impose on companies that engage in business transactions with North Korea.

Abe expressed his support for the new U.S. sanctions, saying, “Through cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea, we will discuss the strategy that would lead to North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons development program in order to decide on what future steps were needed.”

Moon said South Korea would cooperate with the international community to apply further pressure on Pyongyang.

The three leaders said such pressure will continue to be applied until North Korea takes specific steps toward denuclearization.

According to South Korean government officials, Trump said there would be no change in the U.S. defense commitment toward Japan and South Korea.

But the leaders were not all on the same page concerning one issue.

Government officials who briefed reporters said Abe expressed reservations toward South Korea’s plan to provide $8 million (about 900 million yen) in humanitarian support to North Korea.

“There is a need to avoid any action that will interfere with the pressure being applied on North Korea,” an official quoted Abe as saying at the meeting.

Abe later met separately with Trump.

Saying the Japan-U.S. relationship “has never been closer,” Trump said much progress had been made on the North Korean issue and bilateral trade.

In addition to discussing how to deal with Pyongyang, Abe and Trump talked about the Japan-U.S. economic dialogue that is expected to start in October as well as Trump’s scheduled first visit to Japan as president in early November.

“We want to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. relationship by having President Trump visit Japan,” Abe told reporters after the meeting.

Abe is scheduled to return to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on the evening of Sept. 22.

(This article was written by Daisuke Hirabayashi and Nozomi Matsui.)