(2nd LD) Nuclear envoys of S. Korea, China discuss Korean Peninsula issues in Tokyo

The top nuclear envoys of South Korea and China discussed issues related to the Korean Peninsula on the margins of a multilateral security dialogue in Japan earlier this week, Seoul's foreign ministry said Friday. The talks between Lee Jun-il, director general for North Korean nuclear affairs, and Liu Xiaoming, China's special representative on Korean Peninsula affairs, took place Thursday in Tokyo on the sidelines of the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD), an annual public-private security dialogue forum, the ministry said. They "exchanged their assessments on the recent situation on the Korean Peninsula and opinions on ways to address" the peninsula issues, the ministry said in a press release, without providing further details. North Korea's evolving nuclear and weapons developments and its growing military cooperation with Russia were most likely high on the agenda at their talks. China is the North's longtime ally and largest economic benefactor. The NEACD is a Track 1.5 security forum that brings together government officials and civilian experts of the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. North Korea did not attend this week's NEACD, Seoul's foreign ministry said in a release. North Korea last attended the meeting in 2016, represented by Choe Son-hui, now serving as the North's foreign minister. On Friday, Lee held talks with his U.S. counterpart, Jung Pak, who was also in Tokyo to attend the NEACD, and had a broad discussion on North Korea's nuclear and other related issues, Seoul's ministry said. They "agreed to continue close coordination as they stand firmly by the shared goal toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea," the ministry said. They also agreed to keep a close watch on the North's possible additional provocations, including the potential launch of another spy satellite, and prepare against any attempts by the North to change the status quo in the Yellow Sea, based on the staunch South Korea-U.S. combined defense posture. The officials shared the understanding of the need for China to play "a constructive role" in the Korean Peninsula issues and agreed to continue communications with Beijing at all levels. Aside from the two-way meetings with China and the U.S., Lee also held a trilateral gathering with Pak and their Japanese counterpart, Hiroyuki Namazu, director general for Asian and Oceanian affairs at Japan's foreign ministry, to discuss North Korean threats. During the two-day forum, Lee highlighted South Korea's efforts to bring the North to the path toward denuclearization as its nuclear and missile ambitions remain the biggest risk undermining the regional peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Lee also explained to the participants the impact of the deepening unlawful cooperation between Russia and North Korea on the security on the Korean Peninsula and in Europe, and called for the international community's attention to North Korea's dire human rights situations. Source: Yonhap News Agency