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US, Japan, Seoul Welcome Recent N-S Korea Breakthrough - 2002-04-09

Senior officials from the United States, Japan and South Korea met in Tokyo Tuesday to discuss coordinating their North Korea policy. The meeting follows a recent breakthrough in stalled talks between Seoul and Pyongyang.

American, Japanese and South Korean officials say they welcome the progress in relations between Seoul and Pyongyang. In a statement after a meeting Tuesday, they underscored the importance of engaging Pyongyang.

The three countries regularly meet to discuss their policies toward North Korea. Tuesday's meeting is the first gathering since North and South Korea renewed public contact after a lapse of nearly six months.

South Korean presidential envoy Lim Dong-won returned from a four-day mission to the North Korean capital Saturday. He says the communist state's leader, Kim Jong-il, expressed interest in reviving talks with Seoul and in resuming a dialogue with Washington.

North Korea also pledged to resume a series of goodwill projects that started two years ago. Pyongyang halted the projects last year and suspended cooperation with Seoul after President Bush took office and decided to re-examine Washington's contacts with North Korea.

Communist North Korea and capitalist South Korea have been divided since 1945. The two sides technically are still at war, after fighting a war in the 1950s that ended without a treaty.

The Bush administration has not officially commented on Pyongyang's apparent shift, but has said it is willing to reopen talks.

Officials of Japan's Foreign Ministry, say the meeting gave the three countries a chance to examine North Korea's response to last week's developments.

Japan is particularly interested in Kim Jong-il's remarks that he wants to restart a dialogue with Tokyo, including talks about Japanese citizens Tokyo thinks Pyongyang had kidnapped.