Japan, the United States and Mongolia are considering holding their first trilateral foreign ministerial talks in a bid to tap into Mongolia’s close ties with North Korea and settle a host of issues involving Pyongyang, diplomatic sources said Thursday.
By drawing Mongolia into a multilateral framework, Japan and the United States hope that Mongolia can play a role in helping resume the stalled six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program and making progress on the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, the sources said.
The six-party dialogue, aimed at ending the reclusive country’s nuclear ambitions, has been deadlocked since late 2008. The talks involve the two Koreas, Japan, China, the United States and Russia.
The three countries intend to hold a meeting of senior diplomats next month to discuss the timing of talks at the foreign ministerial level, the sources said.
The step to hold a foreign ministerial meeting among Japan, the United States and Mongolia is in line with an agreement made by the leaders of Japan and Mongolia in 2013 to hold a regular trilateral dialogue with the United States, the sources said.
They will work out plans to convene the trilateral foreign ministerial meeting on the fringes of international conferences through 2016.
The sources said a high-ranking Mongolian government official met with an aide of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in late July in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator. They agreed to first hold a senior-level meeting with the United States at an early date.
The senior-level meeting is likely to take place in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September, the sources said.
The topic came up when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Mongolian Foreign Minister Lundeg Purevsuren in mid-July in the United States, the sources said.
Japan is likely to be represented by Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, and the United States by Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, the sources said.
Tokyo has been keen to continue its cooperation with Ulan Bator in negotiating with North Korea over the abduction issue given that Japan has no diplomatic ties with the North.
The Mongolian capital was the place where the parents of Megumi Yokota, an abductee seen as a symbol of the long-unresolved issue, were allowed by North Korea to secretly meet with her daughter Kim Eun Gyong in March 2014.
Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj has said he sent a letter through his aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in early July proposing to move forward on the abduction issue.