(2nd LD) S. Korea, U.S., Japan set for high-level meetings
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON/SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- In a show of renewed close trilateral ties on security issues, South Korea, the United States and Japan plan to hold a couple of high-profile meetings next month in Washington, officials and sources said Thursday.
The move follows summit talks among the leaders of the three nations in the Netherlands earlier this week, in which they reaffirmed the importance of a united stand against North Korea's nuclear program.
As part of efforts to give a boost to efforts to resume the six-party talks, they agreed to push for a tripartite meeting among the top nuclear envoys of the three nations.
A problem is that South Korea has yet to appoint its new top delegate to the six-way talks. The post has remained vacant since Cho Tae-yong was promoted to the position of vice foreign minister in late February.
The presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, is expected to speed up the process of selecting Cho's successor in consideration of the schedule for the trilateral discussions to be held in Washington, added the source.
Two main candidates are Chang Ho-jin, special adviser to South Korea's foreign minister, and Hwang Joon-kook, who led Seoul's recent negotiations with Washington on sharing the financial burden of stationing American troops on the peninsula.
South Korea, the U.S. and Japan will also hold senior-level trilateral military talks from April 17-18 in Washington.
"Senior defense officials from the United States, Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan will meet for two days in mid-April in Washington, D.C., for the Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT)," Lt. Col. Jeff Pool, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said in a statement.
The DTT framework promotes cooperation, dialogue and transparency between two of America's staunchest allies, he added.
"The trilateral defense meeting is expected to discuss ways to cooperate in North Korea's nuclear and missile threat and transnational nonmilitary threat, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," said Army Col. Wi Won-seop, vice defense ministry spokesman, said in a briefing.
South Korea will be represented by Deputy Defense Minister Ryu Je-seung.
It remains unclear who will lead the U.S. delegation, as David Shear, the nominee to be assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, has not been confirmed by the Senate.
Major agenda items of the DTT, launched in 2008, include ways to deal with North Korean issues and other regional security situations, as well as partnerships on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Bolstering tripartite cooperation on missile defense will apparently be a key topic as well.
This year's session follows North Korea's test-launch Tuesday of two medium-range ballistic missiles.
The three regional powers are expected to use the upcoming DTT to send a strong warning to Pyongyang and discuss measures in case of additional provocations, the source said.