• Kyodo

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Japan has shown reluctance to accept a proposal by South Korea to declare a formal end to the Korean War as a way to entice North Korea into negotiations on denuclearization, diplomatic sources said Saturday, revealing gaps in the efforts also involving the United States.

Tokyo has been concerned that such a preceding conciliatory move would complicate its position, with the issue of past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea remaining unresolved as Pyongyang continues to pursue its nuclear and missile development programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the sources said.

The United States and North Korea remain technically in a state of war as the 1950-1953 Korean War — in which U.S.-led U.N. forces fought alongside the South against the North, backed by China and the Soviet Union — ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.

Japan expressed its concern last month when its senior official in charge of North Korea met with his U.S. and South Korean counterparts in Washington. The United States did not make its position clear, according to the sources.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly in September that he will seek to declare a formal end to the Korean War, naming China as a potential partner along with the two Koreas and the United States. He did not mention Japan.

At the senior officials’ meeting on Oct. 19, Noh Kyu-duk, the South’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, underscored the need to proceed with the proposal by Moon, the sources said.

In response, Takehiro Funakoshi, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, said it is “premature” to discuss the proposal, noting that North Korea has repeatedly test-fired missiles, the sources said.

Sung Kim, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, did not argue the pros and cons of the proposal, they said.

After the meeting, a Japanese government source only said the three agreed to continue diplomatic efforts in dealing with North Korea and working toward beefing up regional deterrence.

For its part, North Korea has said it will reject any South Korean proposal to declare a formal end to the war unless the United States withdraws its “hostile policy” toward the North, according to its state-run media.

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