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3 countries to talk North Korea, regional issues

Publication Date : 11-01-2013

 

Senior diplomats from South Korea, the US and Japan are set to hold bilateral meetings next week

 

Senior diplomats from South Korea, the US and Japan are set to hold bilateral meetings next week to coordinate responses to North Korea’s missile test and discuss future cooperation between their new foreign policy teams.

Kurt Campbell, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, will visit Korea Tuesday to meet Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun. He will visit Japan two days later.

Shinsuke Sugiyama, Japan’s envoy to the six-party talks on North Korean nuclear programmes, will visit Seoul on Thursday. He is widely expected to meet his counterpart Lim Sung-nam.

The three countries have been pushing for strong action against North Korea’s December 12 launch of a long-range rocket at the UN Security Council. Discussion at the UN panel has been delayed due to China’s resistance to penalties for its rogue ally, as well as year-end holidays.

South Korea, a nonpermanet member of the council, aims to yield a conclusion on the issue by the end of the month.

“Talks are making substantial headway, led by permanent members of the council,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho Tai-young told a media briefing on Thursday. “The government is making efforts to get as far-reaching a measure as possible.”

On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for “resolute Security Council action” during a telephone conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, according to Ban’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky.

The series of meetings come at a time when the three countries are launching new diplomatic and security lineups.

The new Japanese leader launched his Cabinet late last month. Seoul’s President-elect Park Geun-hye will take office February 25, and US President Barack Obama is slated to take the oath for his second term on January 20.

During the two-day stay, Campbell and Deputy Foreign Minister Kim will “review the Korea-US alliance that has advanced to the best level ever, and seek ways to develop the relationship after the new government sets sail,” Cho said.

Campbell will be accompanied by Mark Lippert, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and Daniel Russel, senior director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council.

The trip is “a good chance for us, in an interagency way, to see both countries after the elections”, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Wednesday.

It is unclear whether they will hold a trilateral meeting including Japan.

Campbell, one of the architects of the US’ pivot to Asia strategy, is expected to step down soon alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Obama has nominated Sen. John Kerryto succeed her and Chuck Hagel as new defence secretary brightening the prospect of Washington’s engagement with North Korea. Both are known to have supported diplomatic options to resolve the festering nuclear standoff.

Meanwhile, the trip by Sugiyama, who serves as director-general of Asian and Oceania affairs, is primarily involved in consul issues, Seoul officials said.

On Thursday, Seoul’s Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young and his Japanese counterpart Chikao Kawai held their first high-level strategic dialogue since elections in Tokyo.

The talks appear to be designed to patch up bilateral ties frayed by territorial and historical rows. Abe also sent his special envoys to meet with Park last week.

The one-day event coincides with another courtesy call by Chinese special envoys on the incoming president later in the day in Seoul. The delegation is led by Zhang Zhijun, China’s vice foreign minister speculated to take over the ministership shortly.

Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday that South Korea, the US and Japan have agreed to have regular, director-general level security talks. The trilateral meeting will be held about twice a year with the first later this month in Tokyo, it said.

Washington has been pushing for firmer security cooperation with its two allies amid Pyongyang’s constant saber-rattling, China’s military buildup, and persisting tension between Seoul and Tokyo.

 

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