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Japan wants post-Kim talks with US, South Korea

20 december 2011, 12:15
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. ©AFP
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. ©AFP
Japan wants to hold a high-level three-way meeting with the United States and South Korea "as early as possible", Tokyo said Tuesday, as the allies closed ranks following the death of Kim Jong-Il, AFP reports.

South Korea put its military on alert after the North Korean leader's death was announced on Monday and Japan, which has also been the object of Pyongyang's aggression in the past, ramped up its surveillance.

On Tuesday Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda spoke for 15 minutes with US President Barack Obama, Noda's spokesman said. South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak talked to Obama within hours of the announcement of Kim's death.

In both the calls, according to the White House, Obama reiterated the US commitment to the region and said Washington was pledged to defend its allies.

There are around 50,000 US troops based in Japan, and 28,000 in South Korea.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura said Noda and Obama had discussed the resumption of stalled six-way talks on halting North Korea's nuclear drive.

The six parties are the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- but Fujimura said that Tokyo wants a more focussed conclave first.

"I think we will first consider a plan to hold a high-level meeting among Japan, the United States and South Korea," he told reporters.

"I cannot tell when it would take place yet, but I think we will do it as early as possible."

Fujimura said Japanese intelligence had not detected any worrying changes in the configuration of North Korea's huge military.

"We have not confirmed at this point any unusual movements that would affect our country's national security," he said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Monday, in a long-scheduled meeting that came hours after Kim's death was announced by a weeping North Korean anchorwoman.

The United States, which provides a nuclear umbrella to both Japan and South Korea, hoped for a "peaceful and stable" transition in North Korea, Clinton said.

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