Trilateral talks 'aim at joint response'

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High-level talks involving officials from the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) next Monday will possibly seek a joint response against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), some analysts said.

But a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday it expected the meeting to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and promote dialogue rather than inflame the situation.

"We'll keep a close watch on this meeting," Jiang Yu said in a statement.

It is uncertain whether the talks in Washington will approve a Chinese proposal for a meeting in Beijing involving the delegation heads to the Six-Party Talks.

"We expect the three countries to take into account regional peace and stability and Korean Peninsula denuclearization and give a positive consideration to China's proposal," Jiang said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to meet the foreign ministers of Japan and the ROK in Washington "to discuss the recent developments on the Korean Peninsula and their impact on regional security, as well as other regional and global issues", State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Wednesday.

He denied that the meeting would be a snub to China and Russia, adding that additional meetings are also planned.

China earlier suggested emergency consultations among the delegation heads to the Six-Party Talks, urging parties concerned not to "pour oil on flames" after an exchange of artillery fire by the two Koreas on Nov 23.

Jiang told a news briefing on Thursday that Russia has voiced its support for the talks proposed by China.

She said that dialogue is the only way to solve the current crisis and displays of military force "will not work".

"Only when we start talks can we have the possibility of finding a solution," she said.

She also defended China's reactions after the Nov 23 incident.

"Those who brandish weapons are seen to be justified, yet China is criticized for calling for talks. Is that justified?" Jiang said.

She noted that emergency consultations are not a return to official Six-Party Talks and should therefore not constitute a problem for the relevant parties.

Washington-based analysts said that the three allies are trying to build a unified response to the Korean Peninsula situation.

Abraham Denmark, Asia-Pacific security expert at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), said it is natural for the US to consult with its allies, yet the Washington meeting does not mean that the US rejects China's earlier call for consultations.

"I expect Secretary Clinton to reassure her Korean and Japanese counterparts of America's commitment to their defense, and to discuss strategies to deter and defend against future North Korean attacks."

Bruce Klingner, Northeast Asia studies expert at the Heritage Foundation, said the meeting on Monday is to develop a comprehensive response to the DPRK.

"The meeting may be to coordinate an opening position for seeking condemnation of North Korea at the UN Security Council," he told China Daily, adding that the allies may plan a response outside the UN.

But the three countries will likely call upon China to use its leverage to promote peace and stability in the region, said Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow with the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Huang Youfu, director of the Institute of Korean Studies at Minzu University of China, said the meeting will mainly discuss ways to censure the DPRK and will also analyze China's proposal for consultations.

However, Huang added that it is hard for the ROK to return back to negotiations after the Cheonan incident in March and the latest exchange of fire.

ROK President Lee Myung-bak on Wednesday stressed confidence in relations with China.

"On the North Korean issue, my view is that we and China will work out solutions together," Lee said in a breakfast meeting with his foreign policy and security advisers. He warned against viewing the current situation as a dichotomy of the US versus China and the ROK versus the DPRK. "In times like this, we need to pool our wisdom in a cool-headed manner, and always think about what is best for our national interest," he said.

While China presses for diplomatic efforts, war games continue in the region.

Following a drill between the US and ROK in the Yellow Sea, Japan and the US will hold their biggest ever joint military drill, starting on Friday, a US official said on Thursday.

The "Keen Sword" drills, which were planned before the latest Korean Peninsula tension, will take place from Friday to Dec 10, Major William Vause, chief of operational plans, training and exercises, said in a statement.

"It is the largest bilateral exercise between the US and Japan military forces," Vause said.

Around 34,000 Japanese military personnel with 40 warships and 250 aircraft will join more than 10,000 US counterparts with 20 warships and 150 aircraft in the drill in Japanese waters off its southern islands.

In response to reports that the drill would be held in waters off China's Diaoyu Islands, Jiang said the US-Japan alliance should not damage the interests of third parties including China.

Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo, an expert on US military affairs at the Academy of Military Science, said the military drills will lead to tension in the region, but not to war.

"The Obama administration has just pulled out from war in Iraq, and it will not initiate a new war immediately," said Zhao.


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