President Moon Jae-in’s top security adviser Suh Hoon is expected to head to Washington next week to hold talks with his US and Japanese counterparts Jake Sullivan and Shigeru Kitamura as part of Washington’s ongoing policy review on North Korea.
According to the White House on Tuesday, the US National Security Council will host the trilateral meeting at the end of next week, while the allies also plan to hold separate bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the daylong schedule.
The high-level talks come after reports that North Korea launched short-range missiles over the weekend as the new US security team wrapped up its weeklong Asian swing last week. During the first overseas trip by Cabinet members of the Joe Biden administration, senior US officials appealed to Seoul and Tokyo to join hands in confronting a more assertive China and rolling back North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
Both South Korean and US authorities downplayed the missile launches as “normal military activity” in an apparent move to refrain from escalating fresh tensions with Pyongyang, with Washington’s policy review for a new North Korea strategy still underway.
Currently, the US is speeding up a comprehensive review of its policies on North Korea, which includes a series of talks with virtually every individual who has been involved in negotiations with Pyongyang since the mid-1990s, including Trump administration officials.
“We are in the final stages of that review, and next week we plan to host the national security advisers of Japan and the Republic of Korea to discuss the outcomes and other issues,” a senior White House official told reporters, referring to South Korea by its official name.
“This is the first time that we will have convened the trilat (trilateral talks) at this level. And these will be among the most senior foreign officials to visit Washington since the start of the Biden administration.”
During next week’s talks, the US will also likely seek to defrost chilly relations between South Korea and Japan that have been at odds for years over wartime history and trade.
The stalled diplomacy between the two countries has now spilled into economic and security realms, posing challenges for Washington’s renewed push to strengthen the trilateral alliance in confronting regional challenges.
“You’ve got more tensions between Japan and South Korea, and of course, US-China relations are heading into a complex period,” another senior US official said during the teleconference.
“All of those reasons underscore why the United States engaging effectively, with respect to the North Korean challenge, is so important as we go forward.”
Seoul’s Cheong Wa Dae has not yet confirmed the trilateral meeting.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org