LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday (May 5) met jointly with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts to discuss North Korea, bringing together the allies despite renewed rifts.
Joined by aides, Blinken sat in the centre of a U-shaped table with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong on each side in a conference room of a London hotel on the sidelines of a Group of Seven meeting.
The three made no comments but Blinken ahead of the meeting said it was vital to work with both countries as President Joe Biden’s administration looks to resume diplomacy with North Korea.
The Biden administration conducted a North Korea policy review “in a deliberate way because we wanted to make sure that we were very actively consulting with all of the concerned countries, starting with our close allies South Korea and Japan, given their own very strong equities in this issue,” Blinken said Monday.
The two Asian nations are both treaty-bound allies of the United States but have long had friction due to the legacy of Japan’s harsh colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.
South Korea last month voiced “deep disappointment” after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sent an offering to the Yasukuni shrine, which venerates war dead including convicted war criminals, although leaders in Tokyo have in recent years refrained from the more explosive step of visiting.
Relations deteriorated sharply in 2019, with South Korea pulling back at the last minute from terminating an agreement on sharing intelligence with Japan on North Korea.
Since taking office, Biden has put an emphasis on working with allies, with Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visiting Tokyo and Seoul together on their first foreign trip and the Japanese and South Korean national security advisers meeting jointly near Washington as the administration concluded its North Korea policy review.
Earlier this week, the top US military officer, General Mark Milley, met jointly with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Hawaii.
The Biden administration in its policy review called for seeking practical progress with North Korea, avoiding the flashy, high-stakes summitry of former president Donald Trump.