Three nations push 6-party talks

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Three nations push 6-party talks


Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, U.S. President Barack Obama, center, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, have trilateral talks to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program and the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in The Hague on Tuesday. [Joint Press Corps]

THE HAGUE - President Park Geun-hye, U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed in their first trilateral summit on Tuesday to closely cooperate in the effort to denuclearize North Korea.

The three-way meeting has raised the probability of an imminent revival of the long-stalled six-party talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, although the three leaders warned that the talks “should not become conversation for the sake of conversation” and “should achieve substantial progress” after urging North Korea to end its nuclear program in a way that is “completely verifiable and irreversible.”

The last time the six-nation talks brought together the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia was in December 2008 in Beijing. The North walked out of that meeting and none have been held since.

A trilateral summit among the leaders of the three allied nations first took place six years ago and there have been four others since. All of the previous five summits were held on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

The three-way meeting was held at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in The Hague after the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit. The event kicked off at 6:35 p.m. and lasted for 45 minutes. Several minutes after the meeting began, on the other side of the globe, North Korea fired its first medium-range ballistic missiles in five years as a gesture of defiance.

“I think it is very meaningful that I have acquired the chance to exchange opinions with President Obama and Prime Minister Abe at a time when the North Korean situation is increasingly becoming fluid and cooperation is needed among the three countries in regard to the North Korean nuclear issue,” said Park in an opening address. “The North Korean issue is posing a crucial threat to peace and security within the region, and I think unified action of the international community including Korea, the U.S. and Japan is very important.”

The American president noted that three-way cooperation has become more important than ever in deterring North Korea’s bad behavior.

“I have worked closely with both the president and prime minister, but this is the first time that the three of us have had an opportunity to meet together to discuss the serious challenges that we all face,” said Obama, who was seated between Park and Abe. “Our meeting today is reflective of the United States’ critical role in the Asia-Pacific region, but that role depends on the strength of our alliances.”

The right-wing Japanese leader said he was very happy to see his Korean counterpart in what he described as a “highly meaningful and also timely” meeting. He said the conversation would become a turning point for future-oriented cooperative relations among Korea, Japan and the United States. He added that it was important to make North Korea realize that economic progress and nuclear weapons development cannot go hand-in-hand.

Since taking office last year, Park had repeatedly declined Abe’s pleas for a one-on-one summit because of his government’s intransigence on territorial and historical issues. Her stiff stance weakened after Abe tried to settle the issue by telling the Japanese parliament earlier this month that his government would not alter or retract the Kono Statement, which admitted the Japanese government’s accountability for the mobilization of sex slaves during World War II.

As was widely anticipated, the trilateral summit did not discuss the historical or territorial issues dividing Korea and Japan.

The feud between Korea and Japan has caused concern to the United States, which does not want to see China take advantage of the emotional and political chasm to gain an upper hand in Asia.

Obama clearly wanted to thaw some of the ice between the Korean and Japanese leaders ahead of his trips to both countries next month.

In a one-on-one meeting a day earlier with President Obama on the sidelines of the nuclear summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for six-party talks to resume as soon as possible, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.


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