NATIONAL

Seoul, Washington, Tokyo to seek new N.K. sanctions

By Shin Hyon-hee
  • Published : Jan 12, 2016 - 19:47
  • Updated : Jan 12, 2016 - 19:47

The vice ministers of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan plan to meet in Tokyo on Saturday as the three countries are seeking to bring about a fresh bout of stifling sanctions in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test.

Seoul’s Vice Minister Lim Sung-nam will join U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki. The trip would mark the three nations’ second vice-ministerial talks following the first round in Washington last April and Lim’s first participation since assuming the post two months ago. 

The national flags of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan are displayed during an annual music festival hosted by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in Tokyo on Nov. 13, 2015. Yonhap

On the sidelines, Lim and Saiki will likely meet one-on-one, while Blinken is expected to come to Seoul later.

“During the talks, they will engage in in-depth policy discussions over North Korea’s nuclear program and ways to cooperate on other key regional and global issues,” Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, citing the “grave circumstances” caused by the atomic experiment.

The one-day gathering is set to follow the separate consultations scheduled for Wednesday between the three countries’ lead delegates to the dormant six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea.

With the U.N. Security Council working on new measures, the ranking diplomats are forecast to focus on how to better fend off a possible additional provocation and bring the other two forum members ― China and Russia ― on the international drive, while looking into possible individual or multilateral punishment.

The latest test, which the Kim Jong-un regime claims to have been of a hydrogen bomb, is seen further speeding up the trilateral security partnership, especially in light of the recent compromise on the sexual slavery issue that has long posed a stumbling block for relations between South Korea and Japan.

Yet concerns are surfacing that the seemingly intensifying three-way cooperation could rather prompt Beijing to eschew endorsing stronger sanctions given its “blood-forged” alliance with Pyongyang, ongoing rivalry for regional supremacy with Washington and standoff with Tokyo in the East China Sea.

During a phone call with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se last Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi indicated his priority of stability, saying the “three principles” ― peace and stability on the peninsula, denuclearization and dialogue and negotiations as problem solutions ― must not be passed over.

On Thursday, Hwang Joon-kook, Seoul’s chief nuclear negotiator, is predicted to appeal for China’s cooperation once again based on the trilateral consultations a day earlier, during a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei in Beijing.

“To me the prospects do not appear much brighter than after the North’s previous three tests, (as) Beijing’s fundamental stance remains steadfast ― it will not desert Pyongyang and I think Kim Jong-un knows that, which is why he pushed ahead with the fourth,” a senior Seoul diplomat said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“This time the UNSC could take longer to come up with the resolution, with the series of existing bilateral deadlocks over other issues, including between the U.S. and Russia, taken into account.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)