• Kyodo


Japan and the United States agreed Monday to keep a close watch on how Pyongyang responds to last month’s naval clash between South and North Korea in the Yellow Sea, a senior Japanese official said.

Emerging from his meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Hitoshi Tanaka, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told reporters that an upcoming Asia-Pacific security forum meeting will provide a good opportunity to hear North Korea’s side of the story.

The annual foreign ministers’ meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum will be held July 31 in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei. Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell are scheduled to attend.

The forum comprises 23 members: the 10 members of ASEAN and 13 other Asian Pacific countries, including Japan, China, South Korea, North Korea and the United States.

Tanaka said Pyongyang has not revealed who it will send to the ARF meeting.

In the June 29 skirmish, North Korea sank a South Korean patrol boat, leaving four South Korean sailors dead, one missing and 19 others wounded.

The incident occurred after North Korean ships crossed over the de facto inter-Korean sea border and opened fire on South Korea’s boats, according to the South Korean government. Seoul also said at least 30 North Korean sailors are believed to have been killed or wounded.

Tanaka said Japan and the U.S. also agreed that issues with North Korea should be settled through dialogue.

He was in Washington to exchange views on recent developments concerning North Korea and to coordinate policies between Japan and the U.S. toward Pyongyang in the lead up to Kawaguchi’s trip to South Korea on Friday.

Earlier this month, the U.S. postponed a high-level delegation’s trip to North Korea due to an “unacceptable atmosphere” created by the naval clash.

Armitage did not give a specific date for the resumption of high-level security talks between the U.S. and North Korea, Tanaka said.

Panmunjom on itinerary

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Tuesday she hopes to visit the Korean truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone during a trip to South Korea at the end of this week.

“I believe it is important to go to Panmunjom to understand South Korea better,” she said. “So I want to include that (in my itinerary). I also hope to have opportunities to communicate with the South Korean people.”

Kawaguchi, who is expected to hold talks Saturday with Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Choi Sung Hong, said she would like to discuss a wide range of issues, including ways to deal with North Korea.

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