Japan, South Korea, U.S. to meet over North Korea issues: sources


Senior diplomats from Japan, South Korea and the United States plan to meet in Tokyo to work on resuming long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, sources say.

Relations between the United States and North Korea in particular appear to be at a low ebb after Washington accused Pyongyang of involvement in a costly cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday the three nations are in the process of scheduling a meeting in Tokyo to discuss North Korea.

“It’s extremely important that the three countries strengthen policy coordination toward North Korea,” the top government spokesman said. “Nuclear testing by North Korea is unacceptable as it runs counter to the spirit of the U.N. resolution, the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration and the six-party agreement.”

Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed economic sanctions against entities and individuals in North Korea in reaction to the alleged hacking by Pyongyang.

North Korea said last week it will suspend carrying out nuclear tests if the U.S. and South Korea cancel joint military drills planned this spring.

Six-party talks — involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. — have been deadlocked since 2008.

In Washington, Sung Kim, who will represent the U.S. if the six-nation talks resume, told a congressional session Tuesday that he will visit Tokyo for the trilateral talks late January.

The special representative for North Korea policy told the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee that he will also travel to Beijing during his trip to Asia to enhance bilateral cooperation over the nuclear issue.

“We’ll discuss the full range of issues related to North Korea” such as how countries concerned can best deal with the threat posed by North Korea and how they can work toward resumption of negotiations in a “meaningful and credible manner,” Kim told reporters after the congressional hearing.

At the meeting, which will be held on Jan. 28 at the earliest, Japan is expected to be represented by Junichi Ihara, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau. South Korea will be represented by Hwang Joon-kook, who serves as special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, the sources said.

Pyongyang has called for resuming the six-party talks without preconditions. But Japan, South Korea and the U.S. have urged North Korea to take concrete steps toward giving up its nuclear ambitions.