WASHINGTON – The United States, Japan and South Korea are arranging a meeting of their foreign ministers, possibly in late April, a diplomatic source with knowledge of the plan has said, with policy coordination on China and North Korea expected to be high on the agenda.
If realized, it will be the first such meeting since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January. The source said their talks are expected to be held in the United States.
The plan comes as the importance of the trilateral cooperation in dealing with North Korea is increasing, as Pyongyang has recently resumed ballistic missile tests after a year of hiatus.
The meeting will be attended by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong.
But preparations for the upcoming meeting may hit a snag as political relations between Japan and South Korea remain at the lowest point in decades due to long-running disputes over wartime compensation issues.
The Biden administration has been stepping up efforts to persuade Tokyo and Seoul to improve communications, with senior officials saying that a strong working relationship between the two key U.S. allies is in the national security interests of the United States.
Blinken is seen as a qualified interlocutor to bring together the Asian allies, having played a major role in deepening the trilateral relationship during his stint as deputy secretary of state under the administration of former President Barack Obama.
The United States may also be hoping to iron out differences among the three countries over their approach to China, which Washington believes has become more assertive and authoritarian, and is seeking to undermine international rules and democratic values.
While Japan has been explicit in expressing its concern about China's behavior in the region, such as in the East China Sea, South Korea has taken a more cautious posture in dealing with China, its largest trading partner and a key player for inter-Korea peace talks.
The differing stances have become clear through respective joint statements released after recent bilateral security meetings, with the United States and Japan criticizing China by name and the United States and South Korea avoiding any direct reference to China.
The Biden administration has been trying to revitalize long-standing U.S. alliances and multilateralism to more effectively counter China, rebuking his predecessor Donald Trump for his go-it-alone approach.
Amid this geopolitical situation, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is planning a three-day trip to Washington from April 8, and the meeting will be Biden's first with a foreign leader in person since taking office.
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