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H.R. McMaster meets with South Korean, Japanese officials ahead of summits with North Korea

March 19, 2018

Top U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials met in San Francisco over the weekend to discuss upcoming talks with North Korea on “permanent” denuclearization, the White House said Monday.

White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster met with National Security Office Director Chung Eui-yong of South Korea and Japanese Secretary General of the National Security Secretariat Shotaro Yachi about the planned inter-Korean summit and U.S.-North Korean summits.

“The three national security advisers committed to avoiding mistakes of the past and to continue coordinating closely in the weeks ahead,” the White House said.

President Trump has accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for the first time, probably in May. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also plans to hold a meeting with Mr. Kim in late April.

North Korea hasn’t yet confirmed the summit with the U.S.

The South Korean government said in a statement that Mr. McMaster and his counterparts agreed to maintain close trilateral cooperation in the next several weeks and shared a view that it’s important not to repeat past mistakes.

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” aired Sunday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Mr. Kim had “given his word” that he was committed to denuclearization.

“He’s given his word. But the significance of his word is is quite quite weighty in the sense that this is the first time that the words came directly from the North Korean supreme leader himself, and that has never been done before,” she said.

Many experts remain skeptical about how sincere Mr. Kim is about giving up a nuclear program that his country has built for decades despite toughening international sanctions.

Mr. Chung, who headed a high-level delegation to Pyongyang and met Mr. Kim during his March 5-6 trip, says North Korea told his delegation it won’t need to keep its nuclear weapons if military threats against it are removed and it receives a credible security guarantee.

The North has long maintained such a stance, saying it won’t abandon its nuclear weapons unless the U.S. pulls out its troops from South Korea and Japan, and stops regular military drills with South Korea that it views as an invasion rehearsal.

A senior North Korean diplomat, meanwhile, flew to Finland on Sunday for talks with former U.S. officials as well as American and South Korean civilian academics. The meeting, set for Tuesday and Wednesday, is a possible opportunity to examine the North’s sincerity about its denuclearization pledges.

North Korean officials and former U.S. officials and experts have often held such talks, known as “Track-2.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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