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Nuke envoys of S. Korea, U.S. and Japan pushing to meet as early as mid-Feb.: source

All Headlines 18:34 February 05, 2017

SEOUL, Feb. 5 (Yonhap) -- Top nuclear envoys of South Korea, the United States and Japan will likely meet in Washington in the middle of this month at the earliest to discuss cooperation in dealing with North Korea's evolving nuke threats, a diplomatic source said Sunday.

The gathering, if realized, would mark the first of its kind since the launch of the U.S. administration led by President Donald Trump last month.

The three nations would be represented by Kim Hong-kyun, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs at the South Korean foreign ministry, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun and Japan's Asian and Oceania Affairs Bureau Director-General Kenji Kanasugi. Their last trilateral meeting was held in Seoul on Dec. 13.

The three are expected to discuss ways to maintain the sanctions and the present pressure against the North's nuclear weapons program along with ways to bring the country back to the dialogue table for denuclearization talks.

Chances are high that the gathering would serve as a chance to confirm the new U.S. administration's policy toward Pyongyang as it comes after the appointment of the Trump government's key diplomatic and security officials such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and State Secretary Rex Tillerson.

Following Mattis' recent visit to Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se will likely hold a telephone conversation with U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson on Tuesday (Korean time), according to South Korean foreign ministry officials.

There also may be an in-depth discussion on how to deal with the North's potential test-fire of an intercontinental ballistic missile timed around its former leader Kim Jong-il's birth anniversary which falls on Feb. 16.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the South Korean nuclear envoy will likely hold bilateral talks with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts to discuss issues of mutual concern, observers said.

Seoul will also use the bilateral talks with Tokyo to reaffirm that the cooperation between the two nations over North Korea should be maintained despite the current diplomatic tension over a statue for symbolizing Korean women sexually enslaved by World War II Japanese soldiers and Japan's repeated territorial claim over South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

"We're currently discussing the timing and other details of the meeting of chief nuclear envoys of South Korea, U.S. and Japan with a basic position to hold it at the earliest possible time after the launch of the Trump administration, as agreed in the last talks in December," a foreign ministry official said.

sshim@yna.co.kr
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