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13 April 2024

Japan, S Korea urge N Korea to stop raising tension

North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung (FILE)


Japan and South Korea urged North Korea Wednesday to stop raising regional tensions and said they would work to revive stalled nuclear disarmament talks with the communist state.

Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and his counterpart Yu Myung-Hwan discussed a series of recent threats from the North, including a declaration that it is scrapping all peace accords with Seoul.

"Both ministers share the view that tension created by a series of North Korea's recent strongly-worded comments is not helpful, and urged North Korea to act in a way to contribute to stability in the region," according to a South Korean statement after the ministers' meeting.

The North has stepped up its attacks on Seoul's conservative government, fuelling fears of naval clashes along their disputed Yellow Sea border.

Pyongyang's military has said it is adopting "an all-out confrontational posture to shatter" the Seoul government.

Last week US and South Korean officials said the North appeared to be preparing to test-launch its longest-range missile.

Pyongyang also has hostile relations with Tokyo, which is pressing the North to account fully for the Japanese it kidnapped during the Cold War era.

Japan and South Korea are members of a six-nation forum trying to negotiate the North's nuclear disarmament.

The talks, which also involve the United States, China, Russia and the North, are stalled by a dispute over how to verify Pyongayng's atomic activities.

"Both ministers agreed to continue to make efforts at six-party talks aimed at denuclearising North Korea as soon as possible," the statement said.

Yu promised support for Japan's efforts to resolve the abductions issue.

The ministers met as the new US administration formulates its policy on North Korea. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes her inaugural East Asian trip next week.

The ministers are "likely to have frank discussions on what to tell the Obama administration over North Korea as a united Japan-South Korea front," a Japanese official said Tuesday.

Relations between South Korea and former colonial power Japan have often been prickly, but their leaders at a summit last month sidestepped historical and geographical disputes.

The ministers said Wednesday they would push ahead with a planned joint reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, involving job training, education and an agricultural project.

They also pledged to work together at a G20 summit in April to revitalise the world economy and prevent the spread of trade protectionism.

Cultural exchanges will also be expanded.