Japan, the United States and South Korea will hold high-level talks Saturday in Tokyo on whether to continue a project to build light-water reactors in North Korea, now that Pyongyang has admitted it has been working to develop atomic weapons in defiance of its pledge not to do so.
The Foreign Ministry said Thursday that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly and South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae Sik will hold talks Saturday with Hitoshi Tanaka, head of the ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.
The meeting, called the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group, is held regularly to coordinate policy toward North Korean among the three countries.
Senior Vice Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Japan’s stance that the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization is an important framework for persuading North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program remains unchanged.
However, the United States is considering halting free shipments of fuel oil to North Korea under the KEDO framework, now that Pyongyang has admitted violating a 1994 accord with Washington to stop nuclear weapons development.
Under the 1994 accord, the U.S. is to provide two light-water nuclear reactors to North Korea — a project later joined by Japan, South Korea and the European Union and named KEDO — and provide heavy oil while the reactors are being constructed.
“The United States has not made any decision on KEDO and the 1994 Agreed Framework, so we will listen to the U.S. stance in the coming meeting, and coordinate policy among the three countries about what to do with KEDO,” Motegi told a news conference.
The three countries are expected to repeat their demand that North Korea dismantle its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable manner, but whether the three countries can take a united front on KEDO remains to be seen.
KEDO will hold a board meeting in New York on Nov. 14 at which its members will probably take up the oil issue.
An oil tanker already is en route to North Korea, but it could turn back, if KEDO decides to halt shipments, an informed source said.
Defense talks planned
Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba will meet with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jun on Nov. 14 in Tokyo, the Defense Agency said Thursday.
During the talks at the Defense Agency, the two are expected to exchange opinions on issues such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, according to the agency.
North Korea recently admitted to having a secret program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
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