U.S. welcomes S. Korea-Japan summit, 'new chapter' in bilateral cooperation: NSC coordinator
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, March 16 (Yonhap) -- The United States welcomes a "new chapter" in South Korea-Japan relations highlighted by a summit this week between their leaders and will work to help further improve their bilateral relations, as well as trilateral cooperation between the U.S. and the two U.S. allies, a ranking White House official said Thursday.
John Kirby, National Security Council (NSC) coordinator for strategic communications, also stressed the importance of trilateral cooperation between the countries amid evolving threats posed by North Korea.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol traveled to Tokyo on Thursday (local time) for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, becoming the first South Korean head of state since 2011 to visit Japan for a bilateral summit.
"Having the lead up to this summit both countries have made a truly historic announcement marking a new chapter of cooperation and partnership between them," Kirby told a virtual press briefing.
The South Korea-Japan summit came after Seoul announced a plan last Monday to set up a private fund that will compensate Korean workers forced into labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.
"President (Joe) Biden welcomes that March 6 announcement, which was meant to address their historical issues and to improve bilateral ties," said Kirby.
"The United States will continue, of course, to support Japan and the ROK as they take steps to translate this new understanding into enduring progress," he added, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.
The Yoon-Kishida summit came amid escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula, caused by an unprecedented missile provocation from North Korea.
Pyongyang fired a record 69 ballistic missiles last year, far surpassing its previous record of 25 ballistic missiles launched in any given year.
The North has again staged multiple rounds of missile tests this year, including two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches, one of which took place Thursday (Korea time).
"Just yesterday, you saw the DPRK continuing, again, provocative and destabilizing actions by launching another ICBM. We strongly condemn that launch," Kirby said, while highlighting the importance of U.S.-South Korea-Japan trilateral cooperation.
"This (trilateral) partnership, we believe, is key to upholding advancing our shared vision for a safer, more secure and more prosperous Indo-Pacific," he added.
Kirby also reaffirmed U.S. commitment to the defense of its allies.
"The United States' commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and to the defense of Japan remain absolutely ironclad, and we're going to continue to strengthen and enhance those trilateral ties between our three nations."
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