By Tong Kim
WASHINGTON – President Obama will discuss the North Korean nuclear issue with Japanese Prime Minister Abe during their meeting in the White House Oval Office on Tuesday, but they are expected simply to confirm their solidarity in supporting the policy of holding North Korea accountable for its international obligations to denuclearize – including UN resolutions.
NSC senior director for Asian affairs Evan Medeiros supported this assessment during an on-the-record briefing at the Foreign Press Center on Monday afternoon to preview Abe's visit to the U.S.
Asked by the Korea Times, "When President Obama meets Prime Minister Abe, will he offer a new kind of approach to the North Korean nuclear issue, or are they just going to confirm the same approach of staying the course, doing nothing, unless and until North Korea shows something different?," Medeiros replied:
"Our approach is not doing nothing. I've never liked the term ‘strategic patience' because it implies passivity. We've had a very active approach to North Korea. First and foremost, it begins with the priority on denuclearization. It begins with the premise of holding North Korea to account for its international obligations ... numerous UN resolutions. It begins with the premise of strong unity between the U.S. and five parties of the six-party talks to ensure North Korea keeps its obligations. So it's a practical approach.
"We don't believe in talks for talks' sake because North Korea wants them. We need to see some signs that there is their seriousness in purpose to denuclearization. This is our basic approach. There is broad agreement with Japan that this approach is the right one."
On historical issues, he reiterated that a constructive, close relationship between Japan and South Korea was a strategic imperative for the U.S., adding that the Obama administration had been encouraging countries in the region to "let history be history, but [be] remindful of it," and to move on.
Medeiros also stressed the need to address the historical issues honestly and forthrightly for a final resolution.
But there was no mention of whether Obama might speak to Abe about these issues before the Japanese prime minister goes to Capitol Hill to deliver a historic speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.