US to hold trilateral NSA-level talks with Japan, S Korea on North Korea next week

Washington:  The US plans to hold the NSA-level trilateral talks with Japan and South Korea next week on issues related to North Korea, making them among the most senior foreign officials to visit Washington since the start of the Biden presidency, officials here have said.

We’re in the final stages of that (North Korea policy) review, and next week plan to host the national security advisors of Japan and the Republic of Korea to discuss the outcomes and other issues. This is the first time that we will have convened the trilateral at this level, a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

And these will be among the most senior foreign officials to visit Washington since the start of the Biden administration. We look forward to a robust discussion on a wide range of issues on how the US, Japan, and South Korea can deepen our trilateral cooperation, said the official who spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity.

The United States, the official said, is aware of military activity last weekend by North Korea that is not sanctioned under UN Security Council resolutions restricting the ballistic missile programme.

North Korea fired short-range missiles this past weekend, just days after the sister of Kim Jong-un threatened the United States and South Korea for holding joint military exercises.

The tests were confirmed by two senior Biden administration officials who told reporters on condition of anonymity.

While we take all of its military activity seriously and will continue to consult closely on this with partners and allies, we see this action in the category of most normal military activity by the North, said the official.

North Korea has a familiar menu of provocations when it wants to send a message to the US administration: ballistic missiles of various range, mobile and submarine launch platforms, nuclear and thermonuclear tests. Experts rightly recognised what took place last weekend as falling on the low end of that spectrum, the official added.

Ahead of the trilateral talks and as the policy review continues, a second administration official said that the Biden administration has also had a series of conversations with Trump administration officials to get their sense of how their diplomacy with North Korea worked out over the last four years.

We have been in touch with virtually every individual who’s been involved in diplomacy with North Korea since the mid-1990s. So this has been an extraordinarily thorough process, and we’re nearing the conclusion of putting together our approach for North Korea, the official said.

The next step will be, the NSA-level trilateral.

I think we recognise that, you know, we are stronger if we approach these challenging issues in North Korea in partnership with Japan and South Korea, the second official said.

The official, however noted, that the administration is under no illusions about the difficulty this task presents to them.

We have a long history of disappointment in diplomacy with North Korea. It defied expectations of Republican and Democratic administrations alike. We’ve had working groups. We’ve tried it at the highest levels, at the head of state. And all the while, we’ve seen North Korea proceed ahead accordingly,” the official said.

The trilateral talks will take place just days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Japan and South Korea to discuss various issues, including strengthening alliances and the push to denuclearise North Korea.

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