10:49 GMT02 April 2020
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    Japan advocates for maximizing joint pressure on North Korea in anti-nuclear efforts, warning its allies in the region not to be "blinded by the charm offensive” of Pyongyang at the Winter Olympics.

    Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono, visiting the present chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Singapore, called for maximizing pressure on North Korea, fully implementing the UN Security Council sanctions to halt its missile and nuclear weapons programs.  

    Talking to Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Kono stressed that it was important not to let Pyongyang evade sanctions by transferring petroleum products between vessels at sea, offering Japanese assistance in preventing it.

    Commenting on the visit, Toshihide Ando, deputy press secretary at Japan's foreign affairs ministry also warned not to be "blinded by North Korea's charm offensive."  

    Uncertainty in Japan rose amid an apparent inter-Korean rapprochement at the Winter Games in South Korea, as the isolated republic sent a group of smiling cheerleaders and Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and rumored to be his closest advisor. This is the first contact at the highest level between the two Koreas in more than 10 years. She invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to a summit in Pyongyang.  However, on the eve of the games, a military parade was held in Pyongyang showing off its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    Before Singapore, the Japanese official voiced a similar warning in Brunei, stating that the latest development can undermine trilateral co-operation with the US, he promised "Without being swayed by smile-diplomacy, Japan will firmly coordinate with (the United States and South Korea) toward the ultimate goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula."

    Meanwhile US Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the Olympics and met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during, confirmed that the two countries had agreed on terms for further diplomatic engagement with North Korea, first with Seoul before potentially leading to direct talks with Washington.  However, he told the Washington Post that "The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization. So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify".

    pressure, tensions, 2018 Winter Olympics, Mike Pence, Taro Kono, South Korea, United States, Asia-Pacific, Asia, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Japan
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