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North Korea Crisis

Japan and Canada vow to continue 'maximum pressure' on North Korea

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, left, and Japanese counterpart Taro Kono   © Reuters

TRONTO (Kyodo) -- Japan and Canada pledged Saturday to maintain "maximum pressure" on North Korea to compel it to give up its nuclear and missile programs, judging that Pyongyang's decision to suspend nuclear tests and long-range missile launches was not sufficient to meet the demands of the international community.

Meeting on the eve of a two-day meeting of the Group of Seven foreign ministers in Toronto, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland affirmed they will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Kono and Freeland vowed to maintain pressure and sanctions at the maximum level so as to force North Korea to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and missiles in a complete, verifiable and irreversible fashion, the ministry said.

They also agreed to cooperate in preventing Pyongyang from evading U.N. sanctions through ship-to-ship cargo transfers in international waters.

At the outset of the meeting, Kono and Freeland signed a bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, or a defense supplies sharing pact, to strengthen cooperation between the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the Canadian Armed Forces.

North Korea's nuclear ambitions are likely to be high on the agenda at the G-7 meeting, which comes before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's planned talks with South Korean President Moon Jae In next Friday and with U.S. President Donald Trump in late May or early June.

The G-7 ministers will gather a day after North Korea announced it will suspend nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, as well as dismantle its only known nuclear test site.

The move by Kim, however, falls short of the demand by the United States, Japan and other countries that Pyongyang abandon all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, including short- and medium-range missiles capable of hitting South Korea and Japan.

Speaking to reporters, Kono said Pyongyang's announcement, which critics see as an attempt to win relief from U.N. sanctions, will not alter the agreement by the international community, including the G-7, to achieve a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.

Aside from North Korea, the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States plan to discuss the Trump administration's push to revise the Iran nuclear deal.

The agreement was struck in 2015 between Iran and six major powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. However, Trump has threatened to withdraw Washington if agreement with European allies to revamp the deal cannot be reached before the May 12 deadline set by the U.S. president.

Trump has called for greater access by international inspectors to Iran's military sites, constraining the country's ballistic missile program and eliminating so-called sunset provisions under which limits on its nuclear program start to expire after 10 years.

The G-7 ministers are also likely to take up the Syria crisis following the U.S.-led airstrikes earlier this month on sites associated with the country's chemical weapons capabilities.

The military action by the United States, Britain and France came after the alleged use by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime of chemical weapons on Syrian citizens.

The G-7 is expected to touch on Russia's intervention in Ukraine and China's assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas, as well as issues like gender equality and women's empowerment, according to the Canadian government.

The Toronto meeting will lay the groundwork for a G-7 summit slated for June 8 to 9 in Charlevoix, Quebec.

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