Nuclear envoys from Japan, the United States and South Korea have reaffirmed the importance of holding a “credible dialogue” with North Korea to wind down its nuclear program, a step that could lead to the resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks.
“We affirmed that before resuming the six-party talks, it is important that North Korea express its commitment toward denuclearization in a concrete manner,” Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, said after a trilateral meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Ihara said the regional powers could hold a credible dialogue with North Korea bilaterally or multilaterally.
Speaking to reporters separately, Sung Kim, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said the three governments agreed to “continue to enforce sanctions in light of North Korea’s continued violation of international obligations” but to also “energetically look for opportunities to return to credible negotiations for its denuclearization.”
“In this regard, North Korea would need to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization in a concrete manner before we can resume serious negotiations,” Kim said.
The denuclearization talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have been stalled since late 2008.
The trilateral session came amid a deterioration in U.S.-North Korea relations following Washington’s imposition of additional sanctions on Pyongyang earlier this month over the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
Hwang Joon Kook, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, dismissed North Korea’s offer Jan. 10 to institute a moratorium on nuclear tests if the United States and South Korea stop planned military drills this year.
“The joint drills have been held annually and in a transparent way, but the North’s nuclear tests are banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions. It’s not good to link a halt of the drills and a moratorium on nuclear tests,” Hwang said.
Ihara said he also explained Japan’s efforts to address the issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals, for which the United States and South Korea expressed support.