China, Japan, S. Korea to work for denuclearization of N. Korea

Kyodo News

Posted at Dec 24 2019 04:00 PM

China's Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a joint news conference between Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in at the 8th trilateral leaders' meeting between China, South Korea and Japan in Chengdu, in southwest China's Sichuan province. Yonhap via Reuters

CHENGDU, China - Japanese, Chinese and South Korean leaders agreed Tuesday to strengthen trilateral coordination to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea, amid an increase in provocative rhetoric from Pyongyang.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it is important to "keep up the momentum" of talks between the United States and North Korea, adding that UN Security Council resolutions against Pyongyang should be "fully" implemented.

Beijing hopes issues on the Korean Peninsula will be resolved through dialogue, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at a joint press conference following his summit with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

Meeting in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, Abe, Li and South Korean President Moon Jae In also discussed closer economic cooperation. Li said China, Japan and South Korea agreed to accelerate negotiations on a three-way trade deal.

The North Korea issue was high on their agenda ahead of an approaching year-end deadline unilaterally set by Pyongyang for the United States to make progress in stalled denuclearization talks.

Pyongyang has overseen a spate of launches of what appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles this year in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, putting its neighbors on high alert.

Concerns have grown that it may conduct an intercontinental ballistic missile test if negotiations with Washington fail to achieve a breakthrough by the end of the year.

The Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean leaders exchanged views on an envisaged complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Abe also sought cooperation from the other leaders on resolving the long-standing issue of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s, according to Japanese officials. The issue is a top priority for Abe.

On Monday, South Korea's Moon said he was keenly aware of increasing strains on the Korean Peninsula during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"The recent situations, in which dialogue between North Korea and the United States has been suspended and tensions on the Korean Peninsula are being heightened, are not beneficial to both of our countries and North Korea," Moon told Xi, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.

The tripartite framework is not limited to security and economic issues. The Asian neighbors have been seeking to deepen cooperation in a range of areas that include tourism, healthcare and disaster prevention.

China hosted the latest round of the leaders' meeting, first held in 1999.

Japan's ties with China have been improving markedly in recent years after issues related to wartime history and territorial claims had caused relations to become strained.

In contrast, the Japan-South Korea relationship has deteriorated to its lowest point in years due to a spat over compensation for wartime labor that has also affected trade and security cooperation.