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China, Japan, South Korea stress dialog with North Korea

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang (C) speaks at a joint news conference with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, at the leaders’ 8th trilateral meeting, in Chengdu, in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, on December 24, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

South Korea, Japan, and China have agreed to work together to bring North Korea and the United States back to the negotiating table, as countries scramble to prevent a potential rise in tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.

Following a trilateral summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, the three leaders reaffirmed their commitment to dialog to resolve the tensions between North Korea and the United States.

At a joint press conference on Tuesday, South Korea’s president said that they had “agreed to continue close communication and cooperation toward denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

“We shared a view that peace on the Korean Peninsula is in the common interest of the three countries, and decided to work together to ensure that denuclearization and peace continue through prompt North Korea-US dialog,” he added.

On Monday, President Moon met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. They both stressed dialog with North Korea in that meeting, too.

North and South Korea started diplomacy in early 2018. The US joined later that year, holding talks with the North on the demilitarization of the Korean Peninsula.

But US-North Korean diplomacy has gradually ground to a halt because of Washington’s refusal to grant any concessions.

Pyongyang has been under multiple rounds of harsh sanctions by the UN and the US over its nuclear and missile programs.

In spite of those sanctions, North Korea has taken several unilateral steps since 2018 to show its goodwill, including demolishing a major nuclear test site and agreeing to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.

There are fears that tensions may spike as an end-of-the-year deadline set by North Korea for the US to take reciprocal action nears. Washington has already rejected that timeline.

China, North Korea’s most important ally, has been pushing for the resumption of demilitarization talks. Together with Russia, it has tabled a resolution at the United Nations Security Council to offer North Korea limited sanctions relief and break the deadlock in the talks. But the US has rejected that draft resolution, as well.

After the trilateral summit, Chinese Premier Keqiang said they had agreed to work toward “lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

South Korea, long consumed by fears of a perceived North Korean threat, has also been pushing to reactivate the talks.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe also confirmed after the meeting that, “The three nations will continue to work together to resolve the problem in a political manner.”

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