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S. Korea, US, Japan urge NK to cease tension escalation, return to dialogue

From left: Takehiro Funakoshi, director general of Japan's Asian affairs bureau, Sung Kim, US Special Representative for North Korea, and Noh Kyu-duk, special representative for Korean peace and security, pose prior to their talks in Honolulu, Hawaii on Thursday. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
From left: Takehiro Funakoshi, director general of Japan's Asian affairs bureau, Sung Kim, US Special Representative for North Korea, and Noh Kyu-duk, special representative for Korean peace and security, pose prior to their talks in Honolulu, Hawaii on Thursday. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Top nuclear envoys of South Korea, the US and Japan urged North Korea to cease activities that escalate tension and return to dialogue and diplomacy at the earliest, following the regime’s recent flurry of missile tests. 

The call was made at the three-way session between South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Noh Kyu-duk, and his American and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi, respectively, in Honolulu, Hawaii on Thursday (local time). Both bilateral and trilateral meetings between the countries took place on the island, with envoys discussing the North’s latest weapons tests and ways to engage with the regime. 

“The envoys shared an evaluation on the North’s series of missile tests and the severe situation on the peninsula, and urged the North to cease activities that create tension and return to dialogue and diplomacy at the earliest,” the Foreign Ministry here said in a statement. 

The ministry said the three countries also reaffirmed the importance of cooperation to deal with issues on the peninsula and agreed to continue close cooperation to make progress toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishment of permanent peace. 

“At the meeting, we shared our evaluation on the seriousness of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and discussed several ways to engage with the North,” Noh told reporters after the bilateral and trilateral talks. 

Noting the meetings were very “meaningful and productive,” he said the related discussion will continue when the foreign ministers of the three countries meet on Saturday. 

Noh said that the envoys talked about both topics that they have been discussing so far and also “new ideas” to induce Pyongyang back to the dialogue table. The Korean envoy, however, did not provide further explanation, adding these ideas need to be consulted during the meeting of the top diplomats on Saturday. 

After the meetings, Kim also said that the three had a very good, detailed and substantive discussion about recent developments. 

“I think there is very strong consensus among the three countries on the importance of trilateral cooperation and coordination on all aspects of our DPRK policy,” he said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea.

The three officials will join their foreign ministers on Saturday in Honolulu for a trilateral ministerial meeting between Chung Eui-yong of South Korea, Antony Blinken of the US and Yoshimasa Hayashi of Japan. 

All eyes are on whether the Saturday’s meeting will produce concrete steps to increase diplomatic, economic or military pressure on Pyongyang over its recent provocations.

The consecutive talks come as Pyongyang has been beefing up its arsenal in defiance of UN Security Council resolution, while rebuffing Washington’s outreach for fresh dialogue. 

Pyongyang launched a record seven weapons test in January, including an intermediate-range ballistic missile that appeared to be the most powerful missile the regime has tested since 2017. The North also hinted at ending its self-imposed, four-year moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles in order to bolster defense against the “hostile policy and military threat by the US.”


By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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