U.S., Japan, South Korea diplomats may meet next week over North Korea

Combined photo shows (from L) Takehiro Funakoshi, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Sung Kim, U.S. special representative for North Korea, and Noh Kyu Duk, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs. (Kyodo)

WASHINGTON – Japan, the United States and South Korea are considering bringing together their senior officials in charge of North Korea issues in Washington possibly next week, their first such meeting since the change of Japanese prime minister, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

The meeting is expected to demonstrate their trilateral cooperation as North Korea continues to alarm the region such as through the recent test-firing of short-range ballistic missiles and what Pyongyang claims to be a newly developed hypersonic missile.

The participants would be Takehiro Funakoshi, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Sung Kim, U.S. special representative for North Korea, and Noh Kyu Duk, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, the sources said.

The three last met in person on Sept. 14 in Tokyo.

Last week, Japan’s parliament elected Fumio Kishida as prime minister and the successor to Yoshihide Suga, who stepped down after about one year in office amid mounting criticism over the government’s coronavirus response.

During their envisioned meeting in the U.S. capital, the three are likely to share their concerns over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development programs and affirm the need to pursue its denuclearization.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said North Korea’s missile launches, conducted in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, should be taken “very seriously” as they create “greater prospects for instability and insecurity.”

Japan, for its part, has protested to North Korea against the weapons tests.

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui Yong said earlier this month that the time is ripe for considering easing sanctions on North Korea as a way to entice Pyongyang to the negotiating table.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has been reiterating its willingness to engage with North Korea toward its denuclearization, but no progress has been seen so far.

The United States and its Asian security allies — Japan and South Korea — have no diplomatic ties with the North. The Korean Peninsula has been divided as the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a cease-fire.

Washington, which fought alongside Seoul, technically remains in a state of war with Pyongyang.

Cr. KYODO NEWS