August 01, 2019 12:23
The U.S. has urged Korea and Japan to consider signing a "standstill agreement" to buy time to negotiate an escalating spat, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The two countries are at loggerheads over compensating Korean victims of wartime forced labor and a swathe of other issue, culminating in Japanese export curbs against Korea.
It seems that Washington, which has taken a hands-off stance until recently, is now trying to mediate.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he would host a meeting of the three countries' foreign ministers on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok this week.
According to the Asahi Shimbun, Washington has asked Tokyo not to remove Korea from a whitelist of preferential trade partners, and Seoul to stop the process of selling off Japanese firms' assets to compensate forced labor victims.
Pompeo is expected to make the suggestion in person during the meeting on Friday. He pledged to "encourage them to find a path forward."
Seoul and Tokyo have reacted differently to the mediation efforts. A Cheong Wa Dae official did not deny the report, saying, "Diplomatic decorum forbids making it clear whether Washington has asked us to consider signing a standstill agreement." But Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied it flatly.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will also sit down separately with her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono in Bangkok on Thursday.
Meanwhile the government here says it is ready for any contingency. It said it will take "every measure" it can against Japan if it escalates the spat and pushes ahead with its plan to remove Korea from the whitelist.
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