Japan, U.S., S. Korea agree on importance of trilateral cooperation

15, Jan. 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, Kyodo - The top diplomats of Japan, the United States and South Korea on Tuesday agreed on the importance of trilateral cooperation to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific region amid stalled talks for North Korea's denuclearization.

In a meeting just outside San Francisco, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his U.S. and South Korean counterparts, Mike Pompeo and Kang Kyung Wha, agreed that cooperation between their countries is "essential to ensure the future of peace in the region," the U.S. State Department said.

(From left: South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi)[Courtesy of the Japanese Foreign Ministry]
(From left: South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi)[Courtesy of the Japanese Foreign Ministry]

The affirmation comes amid a standstill in negotiations with North Korea after a deadline set by Pyongyang for progress by the end of 2019 passed without a breakthrough.

While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to unveil a "new strategic weapon," possibly a new intercontinental ballistic missile, Pyongyang has refrained from making major provocative moves in recent months.

Its most recent missile test was in October, the firing of what it said was a new type of submarine-launched missile into the Sea of Japan. Pyongyang also conducted on two occasions in December what it described as a "crucial" experiment at a rocket launch site, which experts believe involved testing a liquid-fuel engine for a long-range ballistic missile.

Motegi and Kang also held separate talks in an effort to resolve a diplomatic feud between their countries over wartime compensation and trade policy.

While Washington looks to maintain cooperation to deal with potential attacks, relations between its top allies in Asia have been strained since late 2018 when South Korea's top court ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation for forced labor during the 1910-1945 period of colonial rule.

The court rulings drew a strong backlash from Japan, which argues that South Korea relinquished all rights to wartime claims in a bilateral agreement signed when the countries normalized ties in 1965.

The administration of South Korean President Moon Jae In says that while it still respects the agreement, it cannot overturn the decision of another branch of government.

The spat escalated in July 2019 when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government announced tighter regulations on key exports to South Korea.

(North Korea's
(North Korea's "super-large multiple rocket launchers" test-fired on Oct. 31, 2019.)[KCNA/Kyodo]

Citing national security concerns, Japan revoked South Korea's preferential status requiring less red tape for shipments of some chemicals used to manufacture semiconductors and display panels, and later dropped the country from a "white list" of trusted trade partners.

Relations have shown signs of improvement in recent months, after Seoul suspended its decision to terminate a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, and as trade officials from the countries have begun talks.(Kyodo)