Seoul, Washington, Tokyo agree 'diplomatic solution' is needed for North nuclear issue
The top security advisers of Seoul, Washington and Tokyo agreed on the need to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue through diplomacy and to resume denuclearization talks at an early date, said Suh Hoon, director of the Blue House National Security Office (NSO) Friday.
Suh held trilateral talks Friday afternoon for 105 minutes with Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, and Shigeru Kitamura, secretary general of Japan's national security secretariat, at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
The three countries “agreed on the urgency of the North Korean nuclear issue and the need for a diplomatic solution,” Suh told reporters at the South Korean Embassy in Washington after the meeting, and “agreed that efforts to resume North Korea-U.S. negotiations at an early date should continue.”
The first such trilateral security talks under the Joe Biden administration came as the United States finalizes its review on North Korea policy, expected to be completed by the end of this month.
“The U.S. side explained the progress to date on its North Korea policy review and said it will continue to communicate and discuss the remaining review process with us,” said Suh.
In a press statement released by the White House, the three advisers “shared their concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and reaffirmed their commitment to address and resolve these issues through concerted trilateral cooperation towards denuclearization.”
They further “reaffirmed their steadfast commitment to working together to protect and advance their shared security goals” and agreed to “strengthen their ties and advance a common vision grounded in our shared democratic values.” The remarks appeared to be directed at China, without referring to the country by name.
Suh, Sullivan and Kitamura met to “consult on the United States’ review of its North Korea policy and to discuss issues of common concern,” including security in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the statement.
The three advisers agreed that it was “imperative for full implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions by the international community, including North Korea, preventing proliferation, and cooperating to strengthen deterrence and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
A week earlier, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles from its east coast on March 25, its first ballistic missile test in a year and a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The firing of what Pyongyang called its “new-type tactical guided missiles” is seen by analysts as a challenge to Washington in the early days of the Joe Biden administration.
Biden’s team has signaled it could put more pressure on the North, while leaving the door open to diplomacy, and indicated it favors a bottom-up approach, rather than the top-down approach preferred by former U.S. President Donald Trump. Denuclearization negotiations have been at an impasse since the collapse of the Hanoi summit in February 2019 between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but Seoul has urged for the continued implementation of the Singapore agreement of June 2018 from the first North-U.S. summit.
The trilateral security meeting also came amid the intensifying rivalry between the United States and China, with the Biden administration urging allies to join in as it comes down stronger on Beijing over its assertiveness in the South China Sea and human rights abuses. Around the same time as the trilateral meeting in Maryland, bilateral talks between the South Korean and Chinese foreign ministers took place in Xiamen, China, seen as a balancing act by Seoul.
Washington has been pushing for stronger three-way cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo, a vision dampened by frail bilateral ties between its two East Asian allies over history disputes and a trade spat. Such messages were reinforced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in their visits to Tokyo and Seoul in mid-March and again through the latest security meeting.
The security talks between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo follow Sullivan and Blinken's tense meeting on March 18 with Yang Jiechi, director of China’s Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, and Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister and state councilor, in Anchorage, Alaska.
The United States “reaffirmed its steadfast alliance commitments” to both South Korea and Japan, according to the press statement, while Seoul and Tokyo “underscored the importance of their bilateral ties and trilateral cooperation to the security of our citizens, the region, and the world.”
The three advisers discussed the “value of working together to address other leading challenges,” including Covid-19, working to prevent future pandemics, combating climate change and promoting an immediate return to democracy in Myanmar.
They also discussed the reunion of Korean families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War and the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.
Suh, a former director of the National Intelligence Service for President Moon Jae-in who has played a role in arranging past inter-Korean summits, also held separate bilateral talks with his U.S and Japanese counterparts.
In talks with Sullivan, the two sides shared consensus on the need for an early summit between Moon and Biden. Suh also stressed the importance of Seoul-Washington coordination on the North Korea issue while simultaneously advancing inter-Korean relations in the denuclearization process.
Suh told reporters in Washington that in talks with Kitamura, Seoul and Tokyo “agreed to play constructive and active roles in the process of the U.S. review on North Korea policy” and agreed on the importance of cooperation between the three countries “for the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.”
He noted that bilateral and trilateral talks provided an opportunity for the three countries to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest such as climate change and to “strengthen cooperation based on our shared values.”
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]