MUNICH – The top diplomats of Japan, the United States and South Korea on Saturday agreed to support China’s efforts to contain a deadly new coronavirus as the outbreak poses increasing health risks and threatens to undermine the global economy.
Meeting on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, Germany, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha also reaffirmed their cooperation on North Korea, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.
The coronavirus outbreak originating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has rapidly spread, killing more than 1,600 and infecting over 68,000 in mainland China alone.
Hundreds more have tested positive in other countries that are scrambling to take countermeasures, and the International Monetary Fund has warned of a slowdown in the global economy as supply chains and tourism take a hit.
The U.S. Embassy was to send chartered planes Saturday to evacuate American citizens and their families from a cruise ship that has been quarantined in Yokohama port for nearly two weeks.
Motegi and his counterparts were “in agreement on their support for China’s measures to stem the virus’s spread, and that as part of the international community they would provide assistance,” Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.
The ministers also discussed North Korea’s weapons program and efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to unveil a “new strategic weapon,” possibly breaking his promise with U.S. President Donald Trump not to carry out intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests.
At their last meeting in mid-January, Motegi and his counterparts urged North Korea to refrain from military provocations and continue efforts to reach a deal that would see denuclearization rewarded with relief from crippling economic sanctions.
Motegi and Kang also held a separate meeting Saturday amid a diplomatic feud between their countries over wartime history and trade policy.
Motegi asked Seoul to address the issue of court decisions ordering compensation for South Koreans forced to work in Japanese factories during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. Tokyo argues the rulings go against a 1965 bilateral agreement that settled wartime claims.
Kang repeated calls for Japan to lift stricter regulations on South Korea-bound exports of some key materials needed to manufacture semiconductors and display panels.
On a lighter note, Motegi offered congratulations over the South Korean family satire “Parasite” winning the Academy Award for best picture, the first non-English language film to do so.
Motegi and Defense Minister Taro Kono were attending the Munich Security Conference, an annual forum to discuss issues regarding diplomacy and international security, with a key theme this year being “Westlessness,” or uncertainty over the role of the West amid the rise of other global powers such as China.
Later Saturday, Motegi was scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on Asia and hold talks with counterparts from Iran, China and Russia.
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