(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks from nuclear envoys in paras 2-7, minor edits throughout; RECASTS lead; ADDS photos; RESTRUCTURES)
By Byun Duk-kun
HONOLULU, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- The top nuclear negotiators of South Korea, Japan and the United States discussed ways to engage with North Korea in what they called very "productive" and "substantive" discussions held here in Honolulu on Thursday.
"We had a very good discussion -- very detailed, substantive discussion about recent developments," U.S. Special Representative for the DPRK Sung Kim told reporters after his bilateral and trilateral meetings here with South Korea's Noh Kyu-duk and Japan's Takehiro Funakoshi.
"I think there is very strong consensus among the three countries on the importance of trilateral cooperation and coordination on all aspects of our DPRK policy," he added, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Noh said the meetings were very productive.
"First, we shared our views on the seriousness of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and discussed several ways to engage with North Korea," he said, speaking to reporters here.
"I think the meetings were very meaningful and productive," he added, noting the discussions between the countries will resume when their top diplomats meet here on Saturday.
Funakoshi agreed they had "a very good trilateral meeting."
The nuclear envoys' meeting comes as a preview of trilateral foreign ministerial talks that will also be held here on Saturday.
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong will arrive here Friday for bilateral and trilateral talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.
The meetings in Honolulu follow a series of North Korean missile launches that included the firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the longest range ballistic missile fired by Pyongyang since late 2017.
North Korea staged seven rounds of missile launches in January, marking the largest number of missile tests it conducted in a month, while ignoring U.S. overtures for dialogue.
Noh earlier said the countries will seek creative ways to bring North Korea back to the dialogue table.
"Right now, the conditions in the Korean Peninsula are very serious. We are especially concerned because many remarks and actions have been emanating (from North Korea) since late last year and this month," he said before the start of his bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart Funakoshi here.
"And that is why we plan to discuss with the U.S. and with Japan on how we may engage with North Korea at this point and focus on such steps that may allow engagement," Noh added.
North Korea has avoided denuclearization talks since late 2019.
After his bilateral and trilateral meetings, Noh said Thursday's discussions included "new ideas" to bring Pyongyang back to the dialogue table.
"There were many steps that we have been discussing and then there also were new ideas," he said when asked if the countries discussed any new ways to bring North Korea back to the dialogue table.
The South Korean envoy earlier noted one of such steps may be the Seoul-proposed declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
"But we will now have to consider the situation. There are special circumstances at this point and so we will have to discuss which steps will be effective and whether they will work," he said.
The South Korean foreign ministry said the nuclear envoys have urged North Korea to stop its actions that escalate tension and quickly return to dialogue and diplomacy.
They "reaffirmed the importance of cooperation between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan on Korean Peninsula issues and agreed to continue their close cooperation to make progress toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishment of permanent peace," it said in a press release.
"The three countries plan to continue their in-depth discussions on ways to cooperate for the restart of the Korean Peninsula peace process at the South Korea, U.S., Japan foreign ministerial talks set to be held Saturday," it added.
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