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No. 2 diplomats from S. Korea, U.S., Japan to hold talks in Hawaii

All News 01:59 July 15, 2016

WASHINGTON, July 14 (Yonhap) -- The No. 2 diplomats from South Korea, the United States and Japan were to hold trilateral talks Thursday as tensions are running high in the region over North Korea and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The meeting in Hawaii comes amid concern the communist North could undertake provocations in protest of the U.S. sanctions on leader Kim Jong-un for human rights violations and a decision by Seoul and Washington to deploy a THAAD missile defense battery in the South.

Pyongyang called the unprecedented sanctions on Kim "an open declaration of war" and vowed to "totally cut off" the only dialogue channel with the U.S. via its U.N. mission, called the "New York channel." It also threatened to take "physical" action against a THAAD deployment.

Thursday's talks also take place just two days after an international tribunal rejected China's territorial claims to most of the South China Sea in a victory for the Philippines and other countries locked in maritime disputes with Beijing.

China immediately rejected the ruling, saying it does not accept or recognize it.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama in the talks set to take place at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.

At the start of the meeting, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver opening remarks, according to the White House. Biden is expected to underscore the importance of trilateral security cooperation between the three nations.

Later in the day, Biden is scheduled to visit the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, participating in the Rim of the Pacific naval exercises, known as RIMPAC, and have lunch with American troops there, according to the White House.

The U.S. has long sought to bolster trilateral security cooperation with South Korea and Japan as a counterbalance to China's rise, leading efforts to put together the three-way military intelligence sharing agreement signed in late 2014.

Such efforts got a boost from a landmark agreement between South Korea and Japan in late December on resolving the issue of Japan's wartime sexual slavery, a major thorn that had soured not only relations between the two countries, but also three-way cooperation with the U.S.


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