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Vice ministers of Korea, U.S., Japan hold talks

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan held their first-ever trilateral vice-foreign-ministerial talks on Thursday in Washington as Seoul seeks to boost pragmatic cooperation with Tokyo such as on security and the economy despite persistent historical tension.

South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong arrived in the U.S. capital late on Wednesday ahead of the three-way meeting the following day with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki. With North Korea’s nuclear program topping the agenda, they discussed ways to shore up peace and stability in the region, as well as Seoul’s initiative to promote peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia.

The consultations were arranged after Blinken’s proposal during his visit to Seoul in February. Cho is also scheduled for separate talks each with the two other diplomats.

The series of meetings came as Washington steps up efforts ― or pressure ― to bring about a reconciliation between its two top regional allies whose relations have plunged to their lowest ebb amid the Shinzo Abe government’s ongoing attempts to whitewash its wartime history.

While acknowledging the need to address past atrocities, a rising number of U.S. officials have been calling for South Korea and Japan to move forward for the future and work together to better counter North Korean threats and tackle other pressing regional and global issues.

With the protracted strain threatening to dent practical gains and adding to the diplomatic burden, Seoul has also turned to a two-track approach under which it would strictly respond to Tokyo’s historical and territorial provocations while keeping up collaboration on mutually beneficial areas.

Cho has said he would raise history issues and why they must be addressed for greater tripartite collaboration with both of his counterparts.

“I’m planning to speak clearly and sternly on historical issues of Japan. Through this, we are making diplomatic efforts so that Japan will act based on the correct understanding of history,” he told reporters upon arrival at Washington airport.

“At the same time, we are seeking to promote cooperation with Japan on issues where we can increase our national interests such as the North Korean nuclear issue, the economy and other exchanges.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (