WASHINGTON — The U.S. has been sharing information with Japan and South Korea on the recent disappearance of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from public view, a senior U.S. State Department official said Tuesday.
“Anytime there are issues on the [Korean] Peninsula, as we saw recently, the first governments we speak with are South Korea and Japan,” Marc Knapper, deputy assistant secretary for Korea and Japan, said in regards to Kim’s nearly three-week absence in an online discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a U.S. think tank.
“The most recent curiosity involving the disappearance of Kim Jong Un definitely invited a lot of good, close info-sharing and coordination between us and our colleagues in both Seoul and in Tokyo.”
Knapper’s remarks are believed to be meant to brush aside concerns among national security officials that South Korea’s move last year to abandon its military-intelligence sharing pact with Japan could hamper efforts to deal with Pyongyang’s provocations. Despite their chilled relations due to a historical dispute, Tokyo and Seoul avoided an expiration of the pact, formally known as the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, in December at the last minute.
Regarding the stalled bilateral talks with North Korea, Knapper said: “We remain open to diplomacy regardless of whatever conclusions Pyongyang may have drawn. The door to diplomacy remains open.”
Referring to the agreements reached at the first meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore two years ago, Knapper said: “We remain committed to the promise of the 2018 Singapore statement and we look forward to being able to sit down once again with the North.”
The joint statement signed at that summit states that the U.S. and North Korea commit to establishing new relations, that the two sides will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and that the North commits to work toward the complete denuclearization of the peninsula.
“We are committed to diplomacy, we are committed to a peaceful resolution of tensions there, committed to resolving their nuclear and missile programs,” Knapper said.
By TSUYOSHI NAGASAWA, Nikkei staff writer