Tokyo assures Seoul amid peninsula tensions

by Masami Ito

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and his Seoul counterpart, Kim Sung Hwan, reaffirmed Wednesday that Tokyo and Seoul will cooperate closely amid ongoing tension on the Korean Peninsula following Pyongyang’s deadly shelling of a South Korean island and its continuing nuclear threat.

“Japan strongly supports the position of South Korea,” Maehara told a joint news conference during Kim’s visit to Tokyo. “North Korea needs to take concrete action to show it is serious about keeping its promise” to denuclearize.

Government officials from North and South Korea met last week for the first time since November’s deadly artillery strike on Yeonpyeong Island that killed four people, including two civilians.

The aim of the meeting was to pave the way for higher-level talks, but negotiations broke up without agreement.

Maehara and Kim also discussed the possibility of resuming bilateral economic partnership agreement talks, which have been stalled since November 2004.