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S. Korea, US, Japan nuclear envoys to discuss N. KoreaBy Choi Si-young
Published : April 4, 2023 - 16:18
The chief nuclear envoys from South Korea, the US and Japan will discuss North Korea on Friday at a regular in-person meeting to adjust their policy on denuclearization, amid the North’s repeated rejection of peace efforts by the three-way coalition.
The gathering in Seoul, usually held every three months on a rotational basis from Tokyo to Jakarta, is expected to present a more united front as Pyongyang continues to threaten to use nuclear weapons as long as South Korea and its biggest ally, the US, stage their March annual military exercises.
The drills, resumed after a five-year hiatus for diplomacy, are meant to ensure combat readiness, according to the two allies. On Tuesday, the two wrapped up a two-day anti-submarine maneuver that also involved Japan.
A senior Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said Kim Gunn, the South Korean chief envoy on North Korea, will meet with his US counterpart Sung Kim and Japanese counterpart Takehiro Funakoshi, separately on Thursday, a day before the three-way discussion.
“The two envoys will arrive in Seoul on Thursday, hours ahead of their respective meeting with Kim,” the official said without elaborating whether the envoys will also meet with other senior Seoul officials familiar with policy on North Korea.
This week’s gathering is the latest highlight of international efforts for North Korea’s disarmament, a goal that has been elusive for many years. China and Russia, the two biggest supporters of the North, have consistently blocked attempts to place stronger sanctions on the country already defying United Nations sanctions forbidding it to test ballistic missiles.
Meanwhile, Funakoshi, the Japanese nuclear envoy, is expected to discuss with a separate Foreign Ministry official in Seoul follow-up measures on last month’s summit between President Yoon Suk Yeol and his Japanese counterpart. There the two leaders vowed to move past a historical dispute over wartime forced labor in the face of growing nuclear threats from North Korea.
The March summit left many South Koreans more divided than ever as they saw the forced labor deal reached right before the summit as falling short of an acceptable compromise. It skips an official apology and direct compensation from the Japanese companies held liable for damages by a 2018 Korean court decision. The firms had refused to recognize the ruling.
Despite the public dissatisfaction, the Yoon administration is serious about establishing senior-level talks with Japan to discuss regularly common security and economic challenges including North Korea and supply chains -- all of which was agreed as a to-do list at the March summit.
Funakoshi’s separate meeting will likely build on the list, though Seoul’s Foreign Ministry did not offer details on whether the meeting will discuss how to better sell the contentious settlement.
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