US seeks Japan, S.Korea meeting to improve ties

The United States is trying to arrange three-way talks with the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea to boost cooperation after strife between the two US allies, an official said Thursday.

The meeting, which would be the first between the current Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers, would take place with Secretary of State John Kerry during a July 1-2 regional conference in Brunei, a US official told AFP.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was not necessarily seeking to be the go-between for South Korea and Japan, but was hoping for a three-way meeting on regional and global issues of common interest.

"We see eye-to-eye on many things, but as you know, the relationship between Tokyo and Seoul has not been all that warm and fuzzy lately," the official said.

"For us, good relations between Seoul and Japan are very, very important," he said.

The United States stations more than 80,000 troops in its two treaty-bound Northeast Asian allies, both of which are capitalist democracies on the frontlines with a bellicose North Korea.

Relations between the two countries frequently deteriorate due to Korean concerns over Japan's treatment of its wartime history.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se called off a visit to Tokyo in April after two Japanese cabinet ministers paid respects at the Yasukuni shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead including war criminals.

Senior officials from the United States, Japan and South Korea met Wednesday in Washington about North Korea. The three countries called on Pyongyang to take concrete action to end its nuclear program after it offered talks.

The meeting in Brunei is the ASEAN Regional Forum, which unlike most groupings in the region includes North Korea.

The US official said that Kerry would use the regional meeting to press Pyongyang to move on denuclearization, but said the setting was not appropriate for any contact between the United States and North Korea.