Japan, S Korea to maintain pressure on North, China urges patience

Japan's foreign minister lauds South Korea's efforts to broker talks with the North

SEOUL/TOKYO The situation on the Korean peninsula is a near "miracle", Japan's foreign minister said yesterday, according to a spokesman of South Korea's presidential Blue House, referring to a recent breakthrough on talks with North Korea.

Mr Taro Kono told Mr Suh Hoon, the chief of the South's National Intelligence Service, that he was grateful for Seoul's efforts, which have brought a turnaround in the tense situation, the spokesman said in a statement.

Both countries also agreed that maximum pressure must be maintained on North Korea until it takes concrete action towards addressing concerns about its nuclear weapon and missile programmes, Mr Kono said .

Mr Suh is in Tokyo to discuss his recent trip to Pyongyang, during which the two Koreas agreed to hold a summit next month.

He also visited Washington last week, when US President Donald Trump said he would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May to discuss the North's nuclear programme.

Mr Suh is set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga today, the spokesman added.

In another development, South Korea said the North's silence on its upcoming summits might be due to caution over its stance on the meetings

North Korean media mentioned a visit by a delegation from the South last week, but no coverage has been seen of Mr Kim's invitation to meet President Trump or the South Korean president to discuss the future of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

"We have not seen nor received an official response from the North Korean regime regarding the North Korea-US summit," Ministry of Unification spokesman Baik Tae Hyun told a regular news conference.

"I feel they're approaching this matter with caution and they need time to organise their stance."

South Korea National Security Office chief Chung Eui Yong, meanwhile, met Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday.

I feel they’re approaching this matter with caution and they need time to organise their stance. South Korea’s Ministry of Unification spokesman Baik Tae Hyun on the North’s silence about the summit

In Beijing, Mr Xi told Mr Chung that the Korean peninsula faces an opportunity for talks to ease the situation.

"At the same time, all sides must exercise patience and be attentive, and show political wisdom, to appropriately face and dispel any problems and interference to resuming the talks process," state media cited Mr Xi as saying.

China looks forward to smooth talks between the two Koreas and between the United States and North Korea and substantive progress in the denuclearisation process and normalisation of ties, Mr Xi added.

Mr Chung expressed thanks for China's role at a meeting earlier with China's top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi.

"Our president, Moon Jae In, and the government believe that various advances toward achieving the goal of peace and denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula were made with active support and contribution from President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government," he said.

Mr Trump agreed to meet Mr Kim by the end of May and the two Koreas will hold a summit by the end of next month. A location has not been decided for the North Korea-US summit, while Mr Kim and Mr Moon will meet at the truce village of Panmunjom straddling the border of the two Koreas. - REUTERS