The foreign ministers of Japan, the United States and South Korea will seek to beef up coordination on Sunday amid uncertainty about North Korea’s denuclearization path.
The second trilateral meeting in less than a month follows U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang where he tried to work out the specifics of denuclearization with senior North Korean officials.
Opposing views on the outcome of the latest meeting pointed to discord as North Korea accused the United States of making unilateral and “gangster-like” demands.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha were expected to get an update on what progress has been made since the June 12 summit in Singapore in which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised to work toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Skepticism has grown over how and whether North Korea will dismantle its nuclear weapons program amid U.S. media reports that the country has continued to develop nuclear facilities.
Pompeo, speaking to reporters traveling with him before leaving North Korea on Saturday, said progress was made “in every element of our discussions” toward setting a timeline on the country’s denuclearization.
Pompeo’s visit to the North has led to the launch of working groups to deal with details such as verification.
In Tokyo, Kono and Pompeo held talks ahead of the trilateral meeting. Kono will also meet with his South Korean counterpart bilaterally.
The secretary of state also met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has placed priority on resolving the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. The premier has also called for North Korea’s disarmament in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” way.
“The settlement of outstanding issues surrounding North Korea, including nuclear, missile and abduction, will be extremely important to Japan, and that will also be extremely important for the regional peace and stability,” Abe said at the outset of the talks.
In response, Pompeo said he “deeply appreciated” Japan’s efforts as a good partner for the United States in dealing with North Korea.
Abe has expressed a willingness to directly talk with North Korea even as questions remain over what a potential summit can yield.
Last month, Pompeo briefed Kono and Kang in South Korea on the outcome of the Trump-Kim summit. But he also had to assuage anxious Asian allies after Trump said he would be stopping U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
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