Nuclear peril on agenda of Duterte-Abe talks

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

TOKYO — President Rodrigo Duterte and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe open talks in Tokyo on Monday on key regional concerns, including the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

This is the third meeting between the two leaders, after Mr. Duterte’s state visit to Tokyo last year and Abe’s reciprocal visit to Manila in January.

Chief Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga has said the meeting between Mr. Duterte and Abe ahead of two regional summits next month provides great opportunity to discuss pressing issues such as North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Japan’s Deputy Chief of Mission Takihiro Kano earlier said Mr. Duterte’s visit would enhance cooperation between Japan and the Philippines for peace and stability in the region.

The Philippine leader arrived in Tokyo early Monday for a two-day visit.

He will have discussions with Abe in the prime minister’s office on Monday, after which they will issue a joint statement.

On Monday evening, Abe will host a dinner for Mr. Duterte.

North Korea, trade issues

In a predeparture speech at Davao International Airport on Sunday night, Mr. Duterte said he expected to discuss the North Korean nuclear threat and trade issues with Abe.

He said he looked forward to meeting Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. He said he was unable to meet the emperor during his visit to Japan last year because Akihito’s uncle died.

Mr. Duterte said he also expected to meet Japan’s business leaders in Tokyo.

“They have shown significant interest in our efforts to sustain our growth, and I will work toward securing the Japanese business community as a key partner in our country’s development agenda,” he said.

Mr. Duterte said he would discuss with Abe “ways to significantly advance our already strong and strategic bilateral relations, especially on matters involving socioeconomic development, peace and progress in Mindanao, and the build-up of modern infrastructure in the country.”

On the North Korean problem, Mr. Duterte said “somebody has to talk” to the North’s leader Kim Jong-un.

“Somebody has to go there. It would be good for America, Japan, (South) Korea and Mr. Kim Jong-un to talk and convince him to sit down in a round table [and say] nobody is threatening him. There will be no war,” he said.

Mr. Duterte and Abe are also expected to tackle issues concerning the South China Sea along with the Philippine’s chairmanship of this year’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit.

Abe is expected to attend the summit in Manila.

Economic cooperation

Economic cooperation is expected to be part of Mr. Duterte’s discussions with Abe. Japan earlier pledged 1 trillion yen in assistance for the Philippines over five years.

The Manila subway project and the north-south commuter lines, which would be funded by Japan, “would be further discussed for realization,” Kano said.

Japan may also provide more aid for the rehabilitation of Marawi City, which was destroyed in five months of fighting between government forces and pro-Islamic State terrorists. —With reports from Philip C. Tubeza, AP, and New York Times News Service

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