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Japan boycotts joint press event with S. Korea, US over Dokdo issue

Choi Jong-kun, South Korea's first vice foreign minister, speaks in a meeting with reporters in Washington on Monday. (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap)
Choi Jong-kun, South Korea's first vice foreign minister, speaks in a meeting with reporters in Washington on Monday. (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap)
Japanese Foreign Minister Takeo Mori refused to take part in a joint press conference with his South Korean and US counterparts Wednesday, citing a recent visit by South Korea's top police official to Dokdo.

The joint press conference was originally set to follow their trilateral talks in Washington but was instead held alone by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

"We agreed to the US, the host of the trilateral talks, announcing the outcome of the South Korea-US-Japan vice ministerial talks through a press conference by itself. It was because we recognized the importance of the South Korea-US-Japan vice ministerial discussions," South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun said while meeting with reporters in Washington.

Sherman earlier said what she called a bilateral difference between South Korea and Japan that was "unrelated to today's meeting" had led to the change in the format of the press event.

Dokdo is a set of South Korea-controlled islets in the East Sea. Tokyo often lays territorial claim to the islets, called Takeshima in Japan.

The latest spat over Dokdo comes as Seoul-Tokyo relations have been at their lowest ebb since 2019 when Japan took economic steps believed to be aimed at retaliating against Seoul court decisions that ordered Japanese firms to pay compensation to Korean workers forced into free labor during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule of Korea.

A South Korean official here said Seoul flatly dismissed Japan's latest protest against the visit by the head of the South Korean police to the South Korean islets.

Despite the apparent dispute between Seoul and Tokyo over a bilateral issue, their trilateral talks with the US here were "friendly" and "constructive," according to Sherman.

The US diplomat also said the US was very satisfied with its consultations with South Korea and Japan on the best way to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The US diplomat, however, declined to offer any direct response when asked if the US supported declaring a formal end to the Korean War as proposed by South Korea.

"The United States is very satisfied with the consultations we are having both with the Republic of Korea and with Japan, and with other allies and partners on the best way forward to ensure the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and I look forward to those continued consultations," she said in the press conference originally set to be attended by her South Korean and Japanese counterparts.

When asked if the US supports declaring an end to the Korean War in the near future, Sherman said the US and its allies "are having good consultations" and will continue to do so.

Choi earlier said he expected a "good result" in the not too distant future from discussions with the US on the end of war declaration proposal.

Later speaking to reporters, Choi said South Korea too was satisfied with the speed and direction of its discussions with the US on an end of war declaration.

"There is close coordination between South Korea and the US with regard to an end of war declaration, and I will again clearly confirm that, as Deputy Secretary Sherman has said, our government, too, is satisfied with the speed and direction of the ongoing consultations," he said.

Sherman underscored the importance of consultation among allies.

"I think that whenever we all consult and coordinate with each other, we always come out with a good result that ensures the interests of each of our countries and the overall interest of the world," she said.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan earlier hinted at a possible difference between Seoul and Washington over when an end of war declaration could or should be made.

"We may have somewhat different perspectives on the precise sequence or timing or conditions for different steps. but we are fundamentally aligned on the core strategic initiative here and on the belief that only through diplomacy are we going to really, truly be able to effectively make progress," the White House official said late last month.

Sherman said she and her counterparts from South Korea and Japan reaffirmed their "shared commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

She also reaffirmed her country's commitment to engage diplomatically with North Korea.

"As we have said publicly, the United States does not harbor hostile intent toward the DPRK. We believe that diplomacy and dialogue are essential to achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishing a permanent peace," said the US diplomat.

North Korea has stayed away from denuclearization negotiations since 2019. It has also ignored numerous overtures from the Joe Biden administration, which came into power in January. (Yonhap)