With South Korea, the US and Japan scrambling to present a united front ahead of historic summits between South Korea and North Korea and between the US and North Korea, the three countries’ top security advisers have pledged to avoid “past mistakes” in dealing with the decadeslong standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
According to Cheong Wa Dae on Monday, National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong met with his US counterpart H.R. McMaster and Japan’s Shotaro Yachi in San Francisco for a trilateral meeting on Saturday and Sunday.
The three countries’ top security advisers agreed to avoid past failures in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program after discussing ways to achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea and successful summits with North Korea.
“The attendants agreed that it was important not to repeat the mistakes of the past. … They pledged to maintain close coordination over the coming weeks,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said.
The trilateral meeting followed Chung’s three-day visits to China and Russia last week. The outcome of Chung’s visits to North Korea’s allies was briefed to his US and Japanese counterparts, a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters under the customary condition of anonymity.
The meeting was largely designed to reaffirm their coordination before a third inter-Korean summit and the following first-ever US-North Korea summit. The inter-Korean summit is scheduled for the end of April, and the US-North Korea summit is set to be held in May.
Between the two historic summits, President Moon Jae-in is seeking to hold a series of bilateral meetings with his US, Japanese and Chinese counterparts. South Korea also agreed with Japan and China to hold a trilateral summit “as early as possible.”
“Given that the inter-Korean summit and US-North Korea summit take place one after another, South Korea and the US agreed that the success of the summit is crucial to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the Cheong Wa Dae official said.
Such moves appear to suggest a shift in US and its key allies’ approaches in dealing with North Korea, having previously focused on pressuring North Korea through economic sanctions and military threats.
The three countries’ top security advisers have advocated a US-led “maximum pressure campaign” against North Korea, which had conducted relentless ballistic missile launches until it extended an olive branch to Seoul in January.
The last time Chung, McMaster and Yachi met was in January, weeks after North Korea decided to send delegates to the PyeongChang Olympics. The participants then reportedly agreed that the diplomatic overture would have little impact on the North’s nuclear pursuit and vowed to continue with unified pressure on the Kim Jong-un regime.