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Defense officials of S. Korea, U.S., Japan say N. Korea ‘stable’

Senior defense officials from South Korea, the U.S. and Japan consider the current North Korean regime “stable” under its new leader Kim Jong-un, sources said Tuesday.

Lim Kwan-bin, South Korea’s deputy defense minister; Peter Lavoy, the U.S. acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs; and Masanori Nishi, the head of defense policy at Japan’s defense ministry, began their two-day meeting on the South Korean island of Jeju on Monday, sources said. Their conference, held behind closed doors, was the first such trilateral meeting since Kim Jong-un took the helm of Pyongyang from his late father, Kim Jong-il, last December.

According to sources, the three officials believe Kim Jong-un is still in the process of expanding his authority in the communist regime, with no unusual signs detected from the North‘s leadership ranks.

“With South Korea and the U.S. scheduled to hold major joint exercises starting late next month, the three countries have agreed to maintain close sharing of information on North Korea to prepare against military provocations,” one source said.

The South and the U.S. are set to hold their annual Key Resolve exercise from Feb. 27 to March 9, while a second exercise, the Foal Eagle, will take place from March 1 to April 30.

According to sources, the U.S. side briefed its counterparts on the new U.S. defense strategy, unveiled in light of major cuts to Washington’s defense expenditure.

They said the U.S. officials stressed that though reductions in spending and troop size are inevitable, there will be no major change to the U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.

A South Korean defense ministry official said the three nations also discussed cooperation in international relief operations, and added this sort of trilateral meeting “will be held on a regular basis.” (Yonhap News)
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