WASHINGTON — President Obama brought together the leaders of Japan and South Korea to discuss cooperation on containing North Korea and its nuclear weapons programs. Japan and North Korea have had tense relations over unresolved issues, some of them dating back 100 years. The three leaders emphasized the importance of cooperation in dealing with North Korea.
The meeting took place Tuesday in The Hague, after a two-day nuclear security summit. President Obama praised South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for overcoming their differences to discuss a serious threat to regional peace. He emphasized the importance of cooperation on the North Korean nuclear issue.
“Over the last five years, close coordination between our three countries succeeded in changing the game with North Korea; our trilateral cooperation has sent a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response," said Obama.
Obama said the three discussed steps to deepen diplomatic and military cooperation, including joint military exercises and missile defense against Pyongyang. He said further discussions will take place next month, during his visits to Seoul and Tokyo.
The South Korean president stressed the importance of a united response to North Korea, but also called on the North to choose a peaceful path.
"Should North Korea embark on the path to denuclearization on the basis of sincerity, then there will be a way for it to address the difficulties confronting North Korean people. The United States has worked very hard to make these meetings happen. I sincerely hope that this meeting will offer chance for us to reaffirm our trilateral coordination and strengthen the cooperation on the nuclear front," said Park.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed.
"Particularly it is extremely important that we were able to confirm close cooperation among Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea on the issue of North Korea, the three countries who would like to cooperate so that North Korea will be able to take a positive stance with regard to nuclear and missile issue," said Abe.
Japan and South Korea have several unresolved issues, including Japan's refusal to apologize again for crimes committed during its colonization of Korea.
Former U.S. diplomat Richard Armitage told an audience this week that painful historic injustices take a long time to heal, and that it is in Japan's interest to continue apologizing for as long as necessary.
“Without the resolution of this historical issue, the cacophony of noise surrounding these issues is so great that the real story of Japan, particularly the story of the last 70 years, can’t be heard. There is a historical record of enormous generosity, achievement and respect for human rights and human freedom,” said Armitage.
North Korea was also on the agenda during a meeting between President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the nuclear summit.