Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Thursday and agreed to form a trilateral consultative body.
The three officials said in a media statement the body, to be based in Washington, would seek to "promote peace and stability in Northeast Asia." "The purpose of the consultative body is to exchange opinions at the working level about global issues such as natural disasters and climate change," a Foreign Ministry official here said.
Some expect the body to play a similar role to the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group of officials from South Korea, the U.S. and Japan aimed at negotiating joint measures to deal with North Korea. The TCOG folded in early 2000.
In response, North Korea vowed to continue developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. A North Korean delegation member spoke with reporters while the ARF foreign ministerial talks were under way and passed out a one-page statement in English which he said sums up the North’s official position on its "space development program." The official refused to answer any questions.
The statement said Pyongyang will never relinquish its sovereign right "to explore and utilize outer space and to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purpose" by building light water reactors to generate electricity.
North Korea officially claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, while its long-range missiles are designed to put a satellite into orbit. The statement was incorrectly signed by former North Korean foreign minister Paik Nam-soon, who died in 2007, and misspelled Phnom Penh, triggering suspicions over its authenticity.
Meanwhile, the South Korean foreign minister attempted to exchange handshakes with his North Korean counterpart Pak Ui-chun at the ARF meeting, but Pak snubbed him and walked away. It was a stark contrast to last year's ARF meeting in Bali, Indonesia when the two foreign ministers smiled and spoke to each other.