Japan, U.S., South Korea eye foreign minister talks in August


Japan, the United States and South Korea are planning to hold talks of their foreign ministers in August to discuss a recent series of missile launches by North Korea, it was learned Thursday.

The three countries want to time the meeting to coincide with a session of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Myanmar on Aug. 10, Japanese government sources said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has put off his U.S. visit planned for next week, because of scheduling difficulties, the sources said.

The trilateral meeting between Kishida, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se will be the first since July of last year.

The three have not met since Japan and North Korea stepped up talks in late March on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted to the reclusive state, and Kishida hopes to convey to his counterparts Japan’s stance that it will continue to cooperate with the United States and South Korea on North Korean nuclear and missile issues, according to the sources.

The United States and South Korea have expressed strong concerns over the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently moving to open dialogue with North Korea.

In addition, during a meeting between bureau chief-level officials from the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministries in Seoul next week, Tokyo is expected to propose a meeting between Kishida and Yun in Myanmar.

But it is unclear whether the bilateral foreign ministers’ meeting will happen, partly because South Korea is unhappy with the results of a recent review by Japan on the process of drawing up the 1993 Kono statement on the “comfort women” brothel system before and during World War II. The statement acknowledged that the then Japanese military was “directly or indirectly” involved in the establishment and management of the brothels and transfer of these women.

On June 20, a Japanese government panel, after inspecting confidential government records, said there was a tug of war between Seoul and Tokyo over the wording used in the statement, with Seoul demanding that Tokyo admit it forced Korean women to work at the brothels against their will.

The Japanese government has said Abe will uphold the Kono statement regardless of what the report has found.