• Kyodo

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Japan, the United States and South Korea wrapped up a two-day meeting here Friday by adopting a statement urging North Korea to let Japan and South Korea take part in three-way talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The three countries “agreed on the necessity of multilateral talks expanded to include other interested parties,” the joint statement said, adding, “In particular, they agreed that the ROK (South Korea) and Japan have vital interests at stake and that their participation in multilateral talks is indispensable.”

Mitoji Yabunaka, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, James Kelly, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Lee Soo Hyuck, South Korean deputy foreign minister, took part in the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group talks.

But Japan and South Korea remained divided on the urgent need for the current framework of the U.S., North Korea and China to be expanded, according to diplomatic sources. Those three-way talks began in April.

Japan and the U.S. said the next multilateral meeting must include Tokyo and Seoul, while South Korea said it is more important to get the North to come to the negotiating table regardless of the format, the sources said.

The three countries’ officials also called on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible manner, the statement said, adding they reaffirmed that they will try to resolve the issue through “peaceful, diplomatic means.”

But the sources said differences remained in the way the three countries want to deal with the North Korean nuclear standoff.

Although the delegations shared the basic view that they will seek a peaceful resolution to the issue by using both dialogue and pressure against Pyongyang, the sources said South Korea stressed the importance of placing more emphasis on dialogue than the other two countries.

The three countries also voiced concern about “illegal activities by North Korean entities, including drug-running and counterfeiting.”

They discussed cooperation among themselves and with other countries and international bodies to stop such illegal activities, it said.

The U.S., China and North Korea held talks on the North Korean nuclear impasse in late April in Beijing. Japan and South Korea, initially excluded due to opposition from Pyongyang, have expressed hope they will be allowed to take part in the talks, a position supported by the U.S.

During the April meeting, Pyongyang claimed to have nuclear weapons and said it has begun reprocessing spent fuel rods — a move that will enable it to produce more.

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