POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 7, 2011
TOKYO >> A U.S. envoy said he had productive discussions with Japanese officials Friday about the crisis on the Korean peninsula, ending a week of meetings in three countries on ending tensions between North and South Korea.
Stephen Bosworth, Washington’s special envoy for North Korea policy, met with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae for about 30 minutes. He arrived in Tokyo after holding similar talks in Beijing and Seoul.
“I think we are talking about and moving forward together in our attempt to address the questions of the Korean peninsula,” he told reporters.
Bosworth declined to elaborate on the meeting, which was expected to include discussions about six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. The talks, which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, have been on hold for nearly two years.
On Thursday, Bosworth used similar language to describe his meeting in Beijing with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, calling their discussion “useful.”
Meanwhile, Sasae’s boss, Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington on Thursday.
After the meeting, Maehara said North and South Korea should first reopen dialogue, and if the North “takes concrete actions,” the six-nation talks could resume.
The parties involved in the talks have been vague about what is required of North Korea to rejoin the discussions that it abandoned in 2009, other than to say it should meet its obligations under a 2005 agreement to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
Clinton said Japan and the U.S. were consulting very closely and were “determined to move forward to end (North Korea’s) provocative behavior” and denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
Tensions between the two Koreas have been at their highest level in years since North Korea showered artillery on a South Korean-held island near their disputed maritime border in November. The attack, which killed four South Koreans, occurred in waters not far from the spot where a South Korean warship sank eight months earlier, killing 46 sailors.
The sinking of the warship was also blamed on the North — an allegation the country denies.
But North Korea has recently made some conciliatory moves. On New Year’s Day, the government issued a lengthy statement calling for warmer ties and the resumption of joint projects with South Korea. The North, eager for food and fuel assistance, has said it wants the stalled nuclear disarmament talks to restart.