Top diplomats of S. Korea, U.S., Japan agree to close cooperation on N.K. policy

May 5, 2021

The top diplomats of South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed Wednesday to continue close three-way cooperation on their approaches to North Korea, as the U.S. completed its policy review on the communist state, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

The trilateral talks between Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi took place on the sidelines of a Group of Seven (G-7) meeting in London.

The meeting came after the Joe Biden administration said last week it had completed its monthslong policy review on North Korea, which its officials say calls for a “calibrated and practical” approach.

It marked the first time the top diplomats of the three countries have met in more than a year since the last meeting in Germany.

“The foreign ministers of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan agreed to strengthen coordination to make substantive progress toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and building lasting peace,” the ministry said in a release.

“Secretary Blinken explained to the Korean and Japanese sides the outcome of the U.S. policy review on North Korea, and the three agreed to closely communicate and cooperate in the process of pushing for the North Korea policy in the future,” it said.

The three also reaffirmed the importance of their trilateral cooperation and agreed to continue to seek cooperation in a “mutually beneficial and future-oriented” manner to promote regional peace, security and prosperity, the ministry added.

The three sides also agreed on the need to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions to ensure stability on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Wednesday’s meeting also marked the first direct encounter between Chung and Motegi, who had not spoken to each other since Chung’s inauguration in February amid strained bilateral relations over wartime history and trade.

Chung and Motegi held their first bilateral talks right after the three-way meeting with Blinken.

The trilateral meeting came as the U.S. wants its two Asian allies to improve their ties badly frayed over the prolonged row over wartime forced labor and sexual slavery issues, and Tokyo’s export curbs on Seoul.

The Biden administration sees the trilateral cooperation as vital in restoring regional alliances in efforts to keep China’s growing influence in check and deal with North Korean nuclear threats.

Blinken said on Monday that the new U.S. policy review on North Korea centers on pursuing diplomacy to make progress toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in close coordination with the allies.

After meeting bilaterally with Blinken in London on Monday, Chung welcomed the fact that the result of the U.S. policy review was decided in a realistic and practical direction.

Motegi has also expressed commitment to close trilateral cooperation to that end.

Wednesday’s talks, which lasted for about an hour, focused mainly on North Korea, and other issues, like China, were not part of the discussions, a foreign ministry official said.

Though not party to the G-7, South Korea has been invited as a guest, along with Australia, India, South Africa and Brunei.

Chung was scheduled to hold a series of bilateral talks with Canada, the European Union and others in the British capital on Wednesday. He will return on Saturday (Seoul time).