Unification Ministry talks with top envoys of China, Japan

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Feb 13, 2018 - 18:14
  • Updated : Feb 13, 2018 - 18:14
Seoul’s Unification Ministry has scheduled meetings with Japan and China’s top envoys to South Korea to discuss inter-Korean issues and results of North Korean high-level delegation’s recent visit to the South, officials said Tuesday.
Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine meets with Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung held a closed door meeting with the Japanese ambassador on Tuesday and is scheduled to hold another closed door meeting with the Chinese ambassador on Wednesday.

The details of both meetings will not be disclosed to the press, the Unification Ministry said.

Chun first met with Japan’s ambassador to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine at the central government complex in Seoul on Tuesday.

“Both sides have come to an assessment that the South Korean government and Japanese government are maintaining close cooperation and will continue to cooperate in the future,” the ministry said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Seoul also vowed to work with the international community on improving inter-Korean ties and bringing a peaceful resolution to North Korea’s nuclear issues with a “calm and collective” attitude.

Tuesday’s talks likely addressed Japan’s skepticism of the North’s peace overture, doubting the true intentions behind Pyongyang‘s move to engage in inter-Korean talks.

A discord was on display between President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the summit held Saturday. Abe told Moon that it is not the right time for Seoul and Washington to delay their joint military exercises, but Moon said that such an issue is an “internal affair” and that it is not of Japan’s concern.

South Korea and the US agreed to delay its annual joint drill -- Key Resolve and Foal Eagle -- to after the February-March Olympics and Paralympics, upon the liberal Moon government’s wish to bring North Korea to the Winter Games.

Last month, the two Koreas agreed to cooperate for the Winter Games after Kim Jong-un expressed willingness to send an Olympic delegation in his New Year’s address.

Abe was visiting South Korea as head of the Japanese delegation for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, where he encountered high-level North Korean officials who were also in the South for the Olympics opening ceremony.

He met Kim Yong-nam, president of North Korea‘s Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly during a pre-Olympics Opening Ceremony reception on Friday, where he reportedly asked the North‘s nominal head of state to solve Pyongyang’s nuclear issues and the issue of Japanese abductees in North Korea.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters on Saturday that “talks for the sake of talks are meaningless,” while pointing out the North’s reluctance to halt its nuclear weapons program.

As for China’s position on the current mood of inter-Korean thaw, Chun is expected to talk about relevant issues with the Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Qiu Guohong in a separate closed-door meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

Lee Tai-hwan, the director of the China Studies Center at Sejong Institute, told The Korea Herald that China also wants peace on the Korean Peninsula and will support inter-Korean summit on such grounds.

“Peace on the Korean Peninsula is also what China wants in terms of security and for other reasons, which is why it will support the inter-Korean summit and US-North Korea talks which may bring a peaceful resolution to the North’s nuclear issues,” Lee said.

“China holds several active communication channels with North Korea and could be delivering messages to Pyongyang about the possible inter-Korean summit,” he added.

Last week, Moon in a meeting with Han Zheng, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of China’s Communist Party, urged Beijing to “play a bigger role in ensuring the inter-Korean dialogue which will lead to US-North Korea talks.”

Washington has also called for China’s active role in the US-led pressure campaign against North Korea, noting its close ties with the reclusive nation, but at the same time, it has been expressing dissatisfaction over Beijing’s lackluster response.

By Jung Min-kyung (