The top diplomats of South Korea, China and Japan on Wednesday vowed to spearhead global efforts against North Korea’s continued missile provocations as they held a trilateral meeting to discuss cooperation and other pending issues of mutual concern.
The talks, held in Tokyo earlier in the day, marked the first time that foreign ministers of the three countries got together following the last such event held in Seoul in March 2015. Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and his Japanese and Chinese counterparts, Fumio Kishida and Wang Yi, attended the gathering.
At a joint press conference, Kishida who hosted the meeting told reporters that the three confirmed that they will lead the international response, including resolutions on the U.N. Security Council level, against the North’s continued provocations.
They also agreed that the North’s latest missile test-fire is a provocation that cannot be tolerated.
The North fired off a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from waters near the port city of Sinpo at around 5:30 a.m., according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. The missile flew about 500 kilometers and fell into waters under Japan’s air defense identification zone.
Experts see the launch as an improvement and success compared with previous SLBM launches. South Korea’s government issued a statement in which it warned that North Korea’s obsession with nuclear weapons development will only hasten the country’s self-destruction.
Yun said the three “reconfirmed” their stance of zero tolerance towards the North’s nuclear weapons, restricting further provocations and faithful enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“The nuclear threat from the North is more serious than ever,” Yun said. “We agreed on the need to have more cooperation among the three countries to resolve diverse challenges confronting our region and the international community.”
Wang echoed the concern, saying that Beijing objects to the North’s nuclear and missile programs, and also to any words and behaviors that could heighten instability on the Korean Peninsula.
The three made the remarks in their speech following their talks. They didn’t have a question-answer session, nor did they issue any statement on what was discussed during the meeting.
The three, meanwhile, said that they agreed to cooperate in arranging a summit within this month in Tokyo as promised when the heads of their states gathered in Seoul late last year.
Speaking to South Korean reporters following the meeting, Yun said the three-way talks between President Park Geun-hye, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping are likely to be held sometime in the fourth quarter this year.
“It is highly likely the summit talks could take place in the fourth quarter if discussion moves forward smoothly,” he said.
The trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting, the eighth of its kind, comes against a backdrop of diplomatic rows involving all three countries. China and Japan have been at odds over islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
South Korean and Chinese ties have been frayed over Seoul’s recent decision to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery on its soil. This drew strong objections from Beijing, which worries that it can be targeted by the missile defense shield.
Such tricky issues have prompted worries that the cherished united front among the three neighboring countries against the North’s nuclear and missile programs could be undermined.
On the sidelines of the gathering, South Korea held a bilateral meeting with China on the same day in which both sides reconfirmed their stance on THAAD.
In a press release, the foreign ministry said Yun and Wang agreed to exchange their opinions on its deployment plan and maintain a channel of communication on the matter. Yun is said to have emphasized that an issue like THAAD should not undermine their relations.
Japan’s Kyodo News, however, earlier reported that Wang asked Yun to rescind the Seoul government’s decision to deploy the missile defense system, though this report has yet to be confirmed.
South Korea will keep seeking understanding from China through continued communications, the South Korean minister told reporters.
He also said Japan will soon deliver the 1 billion yen ($9.97 million) to the South Korean foundation in charge of compensation projects for Korean women sexually enslaved by Japanese troops in World War II, citing the Japanese government’s approval of the expenditure earlier in the day.
“This move will become a driving force and a source of forward-looking development for South Korea-Japan relations,” the policymaker said. (Yonhap)