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Japan to stress to UN chief need to 'maximise pressure' on North Korea

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is travelling to Tokyo to deliver a speech on Wednesday at a conference on universal health coverage.

FILE: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Picture: AFP

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will stress to the United Nations secretary-general his opposition to talks with North Korea and will instead urge maximum pressure to get it to abandon its weapons programmes, a Japanese official said on Tuesday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is travelling to Tokyo to deliver a speech on Wednesday at a conference on universal health coverage.

He will meet Abe later in the day to discuss North Korea and other topics, according to the Japanese government official.

Japan opposes any talks with North Korea until it has demonstrated a clear intent to abandon its weapons programmes.

“The prime minister wants to reaffirm with Guterres that now is the time to maximise pressure on North Korea,” the Japanese government official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to act as a government spokesman, told a briefing.

Hope for dialogue to defuse tension over North Korea’s weapons was kindled last week when UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman made a rare visit there, the highest level engagement by a UN official with North Korea since 2012.

After his visit, Feltman urged an opening of channels to reduce the risk of conflict.

Guterres said in interviews with Japanese media last week he was willing to help open meaningful dialogue between North Korea, Japan, the United States and other countries.

On 29 November, North Korea conducted its latest test of a ballistic missile, which it said was its most advanced yet, capable of reaching the mainland United States.

North Korea says its weapons programmes are necessary to counter US aggression.

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