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Japan, US, S. Korea plan security talks

Publication Date : 11-01-2013


The Japanese, US and South Korean governments plan to hold regular trilateral security talks, attended by senior officials in defence and foreign affairs, several government sources said yesterday.

The envisaged talks are designed to boost security cooperation among the three countries, as the situation in Northeast Asia has become unstable due to North Korea's nuclear and missile development programme and China's buildup of its naval power.

The first bureau chief-level talks will be held in Tokyo late this month. The three countries aim to hold the talks twice a year.

The discussions will be realised through US mediation, at a time when the three countries are at a political turning point. They are also meant to shore up bilateral relations between Japan and South Korea.

The bureau chief-level talks are to be attended by defence officials in charge of national security, as well as officials in charge of diplomatic affairs. They are designed for the three countries to deepen their shared position on a broad range of issues, including those concerning North Korea and China.

Arrangements are being made for US Assistant Defence Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Mark Lippert and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Jim Zumwalt to attend the first meeting.

Japan and South Korea are both allies of the United States and face a security threat from North Korea.

But bilateral relations between Japan and South Korea have soured since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in August visited Takeshima island, Shimane Prefecture. Both nations claim sovereignty over the island.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, inaugurated last month, has begun working to mend bilateral relations with South Korea. Abe sent former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, to South Korea as his special envoy to meet with South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye, and the two countries agreed to mend ties.

The second administration of US President Barack Obama will be launched on January 20, and Park will take office in February.

US urges stronger ties

The United States has urged Japan and South Korea to agree to hold regular security talks among the three countries as Washington is deeply concerned about worsening ties between Tokyo and Seoul, a US government source said.

Its alliances with Japan and South Korea are becoming more important to the United States as North Korea has been developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching US soil. Washington has been separately discussing with Tokyo and Seoul about role-sharing among their forces.

On the other hand, security cooperation between Japan and South Korea has stagnated.

The United States hopes Japan and South Korea will sign the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) as soon as possible, which Seoul made a last-minute decision not to conclude in June last year.

The GSOMIA would allow the two countries to share information on the courses of missiles detected by their respective Aegis ships. This would have enabled them to work together much more closely last month when North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile--which Pyongyang claimed was a satellite--another US government source said.

For Japan, which faces threats from North Korea, US engagement in this region is vital. Stronger ties among Japan, the United States and South Korea would be of great advantage to the nation's security.


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