Singapore Summit and Japan-US Relations

Singapore Declaration by the US President Trump and DPRK Chairperson Kim Jong-un was signed on 12th June, aiming to make the Korean peninsula ‘secure’ and ‘denuclearized’. The Korean denuclearization process is also vital for the peace and security not only in North East Asia but also for global politics. It remains to be seen whether both leaders can go further to their ultimate goal or not. 

   Needless to say, that the Korean peninsula issue is one of the key pillars of the US-Japan security alliance. Recently Premier Minister Abe was strong and stern supporter of ‘pressure’ and ‘sanctions’ against the DPRK. Both Abe and Trump had also reassured ‘maximal pressure’ against the Kim regime on their 18th April summit.

However, as DPRK seemingly changed and began to pursue a ‘peace’ initiative, the US-Japan relations began to swing and alliance turned adrift. President Trump was inclined to make a deal with Kim on the denuclearization issue. Pundits hint that Trump was more motivated for domestic reason to win the coming November election. Japan was stick and committed for strict verifications, or CVID principle, whilst President Trump began to accept gradualist approach on denuclearization that was promoted by China, Russia and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

That was the reason why meeting of Abe with Trump took place on June 7, prior to Singapore summit five days later. Somewhat urgent setting and agenda of Premier Minister Abe was perhaps necessitated by the fact that Singapore Summit would like to be something more than a mere political show of two maverick politicians like Kim and Trump.

History showed that for a long time there always existed a gap between Washington and Tokyo over attitudes towards the DPRK. Tokyo was always cautious toward Kim regime, partly because Japan is more close to DPRK and directly influenced by geopolitical reasons, once Washington wanted to change their course to DPRK. Relaxation of the tensions on the Korean peninsula would raise even negative attitudes towards alliance with the US. Former US aid to President Bush Jr. Condoleezza Rice recalls in her book, that Japan had lobbied for tougher positions, when the US wanted to dismember terrorist status of the DPRK in 2008. 

Abe himself had specific reason for this tougher position: abduction issue. He had upgraded this issue as an official propaganda agenda against the DPRK, along with missile and nuclear programs. However, he failed to negotiate this issue with DPRK directly, and had to ask president Trump with some help. He had cautioned on ending the Korean War historically that would involve reassessment of whole set of security and diplomatic course. Thus Abe and Trump had to meet to shorten their gap before the Singapore summit and also reassure the abduction issue before Kim. Abe’s advice to Trump was not necessary negative, because Trump needed second opinion from the leader of the world second economic power. In fact, Abe even advised to choose Singapore as the meeting place, rather than Ulaanbaatar, as a model of Eurasian future. 

The past negotiations with DPRK show that cautious ponderation was basically wise enough. Still, it is also true that maverick innovation may open a new page of history, whatever their original intention may be. 

It is not true that both relation is one way. It was Abe who advised to go to Singapore according to Japanese governmental source. Tramp needed multidimensional advice from Shinzo on delicate Asian political maneuver.   

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.