U.S., Japan support stronger defense

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U.S., Japan support stronger defense


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, center, holds a press conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, left, and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, right, after their trilateral meeting Monday at the State Department in Washington. [AFP/YONHAP]

Washington and Tokyo expressed full support for Seoul’s resolve to respond to any additional North Korean provocation with strong military action, according to a high-ranking government official.

The support came at a rare trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan in Washington yesterday, meant to coordinate reaction to the recent military provocations by the North.

“At the meeting of the three foreign ministers, Minister Kim Sung-hwan delivered South Korea’s stance on any future North Korean provocation, including a military reaction,” the official told South Korean reporters in Washington. “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japan’s Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara raised no objection to it and shared the view that North Korea should pay a due price.”

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the foreign ministers pledged to deal with provocations by the North with enhanced coordination.

“The Ministers affirmed that the DPRK’s [North Korea’s] provocative and belligerent behavior threatens all three countries and will be met with solidarity from all three countries,” the joint statement by the ministers read.

It is the first time in more than four years the foreign ministers of the three countries had a tripartite meeting. The last time was in October 2006.

The ministers agreed that overcoming the current impasse on the peninsula will depend on initiatives from North Korea, not other countries - a rhetorical rejection of China’s attempts to resume six-party talks to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

“This trilateral meeting reaffirmed the steps that North Korea must take in order for a resumption of six-party talks to produce results,” said Clinton at a press briefing after the meeting.

The steps required of North Korea, Clinton said, include improving relations with South Korea, ceasing its provocations and complying with its international obligations.

Last month, China, North Korea’s closest ally, suggested a meeting within this month of the envoys of the stalled six-party talks, which Seoul, Washington and Tokyo suspect would lead to the resumption of the talks.

“We appreciate Beijing’s initiative to propose an emergency six-party gathering. However, we first need an appropriate basis for the resumption of the talks,” Clinton said. “Any effort, of course, must start with North Korea ceasing all provocative and belligerent behavior.”

China is watching the moves by the three countries with unease, analysts say, as it seeks to strike a “passive balance” between maintaining its close ties with the North and exercising leadership in regional disputes.

“We would hope that China would work with us to send a clear, unmistakable message to North Korea that they have to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose in ending their provocative actions,” Clinton said.

Clinton said she will send a high-level U.S. envoy to Asia next week to follow up the trilateral meeting.

By Moon Gwang-lip, Kim Jung-wook [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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