The United States, Japan and South Korea on Wednesday (21/7), reaffirmed their commitment to work together in pursuing North Korea’s denuclearization and addressing other regional threats. But the US has made no progress in bringing the two US allies closer together.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who held talks in Tokyo with colleagues — Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Mori and South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun — said the three-nation alliance remained “the key to peace, security and prosperity”.
The officials reiterated the importance of respecting international law, including safeguarding freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, and opposed any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait.
“When countries take actions that run counter to U.S. interests or that threaten our partners and allies, we will not leave those challenges unanswered,” Sherman said.
The US and Japan have raised concerns about China asserting its claims to contested territory in the South China Sea and the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyu.
“It is important for the international community to unite and speak out against (China’s) unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, and I hope we can work together,” Mori said.
Choi appeared to be avoiding China-related issues at a joint press conference on Wednesday, stressing the importance of maintaining dialogue with North Korea.
Deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing have raised concerns in Seoul that the country will be sandwiched between its main security ally and its biggest trading partner.
Choi has repeatedly welcomed the importance of holding trilateral talks and said he hoped the meetings would be held regularly to establish close communication between the three countries.
Japan and South Korea have been trying to improve relations since President Joe Biden called for stronger three-way cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear threat and the challenges posed by China. However, so far there has been no significant change.
Mori and Choi are still at odds on issues dating back to the Japanese colonial era on the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese atrocities committed before and during World War II. The two countries only agreed to resume talks.
Mori urged South Korea to responsibly resolve issues related to compensation of Korean workers in wartime and sexual harassment of Korean women by Japanese troops in order to restore healthy relations between the two countries.
Choi reiterated his country’s stance that the problems would not be resolved unless Japan changed its stance.
Earlier this week, President Moon Jae-in canceled plans to visit Tokyo to attend Friday’s Olympic opening and meet Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. [ab/uh]