U.S., South Korea and Japan begin talks on North Korea policy

4 minutes

On Friday, United States President Joe Biden began a day of talks with South Korea and Japan to discuss the long-awaited North Korea policy and other pressing concerns, including a shortage of semiconductor chips.

The talks between Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and his Japanese counterpart Suh Hoon, and South Korea's national security adviser Shigeru Kitamura went underway at the U.S. A senior official from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland said it is the most senior meeting between the three allies since Biden took power on Jan 20 and comes against a backdrop of rising tensions after North Korean missile launches last week. Last week, Biden said the United States remained open to diplomacy with North Korea despite its ballistic missile tests, but warned there would be responses if North Korea escalates matters.

The senior administration official said the Annapolis talks would include discussion of the missile launches, the extent of coronavirus infections within China, and recent diplomacy between Pyongyang and its principal ally, North Korea.

The main goal is to ensure that we have a deep, shared understanding of circumstances that are happening on the peninsula, North Korea, he told reporters, noting that some reports indicated North Korea has been on a total lockdown due to the pandemic.

The White House shared little about its review of North Korea policy and whether it will make concessions to convince Pyongyang to the negotiating table in order to discuss giving up its nuclear weapons.

On Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that denuclearization would remain at the center of the policy and any approach to Pyongyang will have to be done in lockstep with close allies, including Japan and South Korea.

Kim Jong Un's predecessor, the Republican Donald Trump, held three meetings with North Korean leader Biden, but achieved no breakthrough other than a pause in nuclear and intercontinental ballistic tests.

Biden, a Democrat, has sought to engage North Korea in the dialogue, but has been rebuffed so far.

Pyongyang, which has long sought a lifting of international sanctions over its arms program, said last week that the Biden administration had taken a wrong first step and revealed deep-seated hostility by criticizing what it called self-defensive missile tests. The U.S. official said the North Korea review was in its final stages and we are now prepared to have some final consultations with Japan and South Korea as we go forward.

Joseph Yun, who was the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea under both former President Donald Obama and under Trump, said the policy options were obvious: You want denuclearization and you want to use your sanctions to get to denuclearization.

But how do we make the first step, so that at least North Korea is persuaded not to do anything provocative?

What's the challenge?

Some proponents of dialogue are concerned that the Biden administration has not underscored a broad agreement between Trump and Kim at their first meeting in Singapore in 2018 and warn this could make it difficult to build trust. Asked whether the agreement still stands, the official said: I understand the significance of the agreement of Annapolis but did not make clear to what extent the issue would be part of the Singapore talks. The three officials are also expected to discuss a global shortage of semi-conductor chips that have forced U.S. automakers and other manufacturers to cut production.

The shortage stems from a confluence of factors as carmakers, which shut plants during the COVID -- 19 pandemic last year, compete for chips against the sprawling consumer electronics industry.

It would be fair to say that our three countries hold many of the keys to the future of sensitive semiconductor manufacturing technology and we will seek to emphasize the importance of secure supply chains, said the official.

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