S. Korea's top nuke envoy to visit Japan this week

S. Korea's top nuke envoy to visit Japan this week

SEOUL, July 14 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's top nuclear envoy will make a three-day visit to Japan this week for talks about issues on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Seoul's foreign ministry said on Monday.

Hwang Joon-kook, who represents South Korea at the six-party dialogue aimed at dismantling the DPRK's nuclear program, will leave for Tokyo Tuesday to meet with his Japanese counterpart Junichi Ihara and other government officials, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It will be Hwang's first visit to Japan since he was appointed as chief negotiator for the disarmament-for-aid talks in early April. The dialogue, including the two Koreas, China, the United States, Russia and Japan, has been halted since late 2008.

Hwang and Ihara will make a comprehensive discussion on the DPRK, including its nuclear and missile problems, and Japan's recent consultation with the DPRK, the ministry said.

The consultation refers to the DPRK's agreement to reinvestigate Japanese people abducted by its agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

The meeting between Hwang and Ihara will also mark the first time since October 2011 that South Korea's top nuclear envoy visits Japan for talks with his counterpart.

Hwang recently held a series of dialogue with his U.S. counterpart Glyn Davies on June 2 and with Wu Dawei, top nuclear negotiator of China, on June 10. He made a three-day visit to Russia from June 16 for a dialogue with his Russian counterpart Igor Margulov.

The DPRK has expressed its willingness to return to the dialogue table "without preconditions," but South Korea and the United States have called for Pyongyang to demonstrate its sincerity toward denuclearization.

The DPRK has warned that it will conduct a "new form" of nuclear test. The latest test was carried out in February last year.

Tensions are running high on the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK launched some 100 rounds of artillery shells into its eastern waters from a region just north of the military demarcation line on Monday.

It is rare for the DPRK to conduct its firing exercise just north of the military demarcation line in the east coast. Pyongyang fired missiles and shells five times in less than three weeks.

The launches came ahead of a joint maritime exercise that will involve U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington and South Korean battleships in southern and southwestern waters off the Korean Peninsula from July 16 to July 21.

After the six-day drill, South Korea, the United States and Japan will hold a joint naval exercise, called Search and Rescue Exercise or SAREX, from July 21 to July 22 in international waters south of South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju.