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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 12)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:07 December 12, 2019

For trilateral partnership
3 nations' leaders should ensure regional security

Leaders of South Korea, China and Japan will hold an annual summit in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu for two days from Dec. 23. Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday that President Moon Jae-in will attend the summit to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The leaders are expected to focus on methods for substantive trilateral cooperation. They are also likely to have in-depth discussions on regional security. It is important for the three Asian neighbors to strengthen their partnerships to beef up collaboration on various issues of mutual concern.

The summit is drawing attention as it comes at a time when North Korea is ratcheting up tensions by threatening unspecified actions if the United States fails to meet its demands related to their stalled nuclear talks by a year-end deadline. Against this backdrop, Moon and the other leaders are set to assess the current security situation on the peninsula and the trilateral partnership striving for the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

Three-way cooperation between Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo is pivotal to keeping Pyongyang on course for scrapping its nuclear development program in return for security guarantees and other quid pro quos. Of course, success in denuclearizing the North will depend on how well Washington and Pyongyang fare in their bilateral nuclear disarmament talks.

Nevertheless, the U.S. needs collaboration with South Korea, China and Japan in getting the North to dismantle its nuclear arsenal. Particularly China, one of North Korea's few allies, can exercise its influence on the Kim Jong-un regime to keep its commitment to denuclearization.

For its part, Japan has so far been sidelined in international efforts to make the North nuclear-free. But the Abe government can play a role of speeding up the North's denuclearization to ensure peace and stability in East Asia. Tokyo is required to work more closely with Seoul and Washington to persuade Pyongyang to take a path toward peace and co-prosperity, instead of a nuclear confrontation.

Joint efforts by the three Asian countries are more than necessary to settle peace on the peninsula, especially when Pyongyang is implicitly threatening to conduct an ICBM or nuclear test. On Saturday, the North carried out a "very important test" -- apparently a missile engine test -- at its Tongchang-ri site. Concerns are growing that the North may try to turn back the clock to the 2017 "fire and fury" situation.

U.S. President Donald Trump even threatened to use force against the North, while calling Kim "Rocket Man" again. And the North shot back with branding Trump as a "dotard." The mounting tensions between the two countries are bringing doom and gloom to the prospects for the nuclear negotiations.

It is also equally important for Moon to discuss the wartime forced labor issue and subsequent Japanese trade measures against Korea when he meets with Abe. The two leaders should try to find ways to mend frayed bilateral ties and resolve the thorny issues through dialogue and compromise.

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