HONOLULU – Senior officials from Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed Thursday to use dialogue and pressure to urge North Korea to halt its suspected nuclear weapons development program in a verifiable and irreversible fashion, Japanese officials said.
Agreeing on the need to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, the countries also confirmed that they will call for five-party dialogue incorporating Japan and South Korea as soon as possible, they said.
The agreements were made on the first day of a two-day meeting in Honolulu of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group aimed at coordinating policies on North Korea.
The meeting began with a working lunch, followed by bilateral exchanges.
Attending the meeting are Mitoji Yabunaka, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry; U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly; and Lee Su Hyok, South Korean assistant secretary of foreign affairs and trade.
The meeting follows a series of others involving leaders of the three countries in which the nations agreed on a basic North Korea policy centering on dialogue and pressure.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently agreed to seek a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear problem in separate meetings with President George W. Bush and President Roh Moo Hyun.
At the same time, Koizumi and Bush have agreed that further escalation of the situation by North Korea would “require tougher measures” from the international community.
Roh and Bush confirmed at their meeting that mounting threats to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula would require the “consideration of further steps.”
The meeting of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group is the first since multilateral dialogue focusing on North Korea’s nuclear program began in April.
The U.S., China and North Korea launched the dialogue with a meeting in Beijing. Due to Pyongyang s opposition, Japan and South Korea were excluded from these talks.
During the April meeting, Pyongyang claimed it has nuclear weapons and has started reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods that would enable it to produce fresh weapons.
Senior officials from Japan, the U.S. and South Korea will coordinate how to promote the basic policy of dialogue and pressure, with the countries differing on the emphasis placed on the “pressure” aspect of the policy.
The U.S. has stressed the need to impose U.N. sanctions on North Korea if deemed necessary to pressure Pyongyang.
For its part, South Korea is placing a greater emphasis on talks.
The officials will discuss whether to freeze a project to build two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea under the framework of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, an international consortium running the project.
The three countries are already considering putting off indefinitely orders for major parts needed to build the reactors.
The officials will issue a joint declaration after Friday afternoon’s meeting.
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