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Senior Japan, South Korea, U.S. diplomats to meet this month in Tokyo

Kyodo

Senior diplomats from Japan, South Korea and the United States plan to meet in Tokyo in the middle of this month to reaffirm trilateral security cooperation amid growing concerns over an increasingly assertive China and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, diplomatic sources said.

The diplomats are hoping to push for stronger ties by building on the momentum of the deal struck between Japan and South Korea last month to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the “comfort women” dispute, the sources said Monday.

Japan will be represented by Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki, the United States by Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and South Korea by Lim Sung-nam, first vice minister of foreign affairs, the sources said.

Both Japan and the United States are increasingly concerned about China’s recent step to land a plane on an airstrip it constructed in a contested part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China claims sovereignty over most of that sea and has overlapping territorial claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Tokyo and Washington will urge Seoul to get onboard with them when it comes to China’s maritime forays, the sources said. South Korea has been hesitant to criticize China’s assertiveness.

Some people in Japan and South Korea have been critical of the landmark deal to settle the comfort women issue, which includes the Japanese government contributing to a fund to provide support for the women.

Washington, eager to see strong ties between Tokyo and Seoul, is expected to reiterate its support for the agreement in hopes the issue will not be raised again in the future, the sources said.

The diplomats plan to agree on the importance of working together to address North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

They are also likely to discuss the long-stalled issue of Japan and South Korea signing an agreement on sharing classified military, the sources said.

Tokyo and Seoul put off signing the agreement in 2012 due to opposition in South Korea.

Another issue that could be on the agenda is that of concluding an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) between the Self-Defense Forces and the South Korean military, which would enable reciprocal provision of supplies, the sources said.

The diplomats may discuss a proposal for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit that starts March 31 in Washington, according to the sources.