What a U.S.–North Korean Summit Means for Japan

Abe Has Good Reason to Be Skeptical

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a joint announcement at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, February 2018. Kiyoshi Ota / REUTERS

When news broke on March 8 that U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had plenty of reason to worry. Japan, of course, would be delighted if the Trump-Kim meeting were to put Pyongyang on the path to verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, but Japanese leaders have long been and will continue to be concerned about the arsenal of North Korean missiles that could reach them. From Tokyo’s perspective, the problem on the Korean Peninsula is not simply that Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capabilities are growing; it is also that Kim blatantly desires to demonstrate those capabilities, and to do so at the expense of Japanese security. North Korea has a reputation of not abiding by agreements, and today it has a lethal military arsenal to show for it. Thus, even if Trump and Kim hash

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