DPRK ‘always welcome’ at talks table, Japan nuclear envoy says

Japan's nuclear envoy, Takehiro Funakoshi, speaks during the Japan-US-ROK trilateral meeting on the DPRK at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo on Sept 7, 2022.

TOKYO – The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is "always welcome" at the negotiating table even though the threat of further provocation may be looming, Japan's nuclear envoy, Takehiro Funakoshi, said on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with his US and Republic of Korea’s counterparts.

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The three nations, which met in Tokyo to discuss their DPRK strategy, are tightening security cooperation as tension rises in the wake of recent DPRK moves such as an unusual number of missile launches and warnings from the United States that Pyongyang could sell weapons to Russia. 

"We remain open to entertaining dialogue with North Korea," Japan's nuclear envoy, Takehiro Funakoshi said, adding that Pyongyang was always welcome at negotiations

Wednesday's meeting came after trilateral talks held over the past two months, including a gathering of security advisers from the three nations in Hawaii last week amid signs Pyongyang may be about to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.

"North Korea is continuing and even accelerating its nuclear and missile capabilities, and there is a looming chance of further provocation, including a nuclear test," Funakoshi said before the discussions. The DPRK is also referred to as North Korea.

"At the same time, we remain open to entertaining dialogue with North Korea," he said, adding that Pyongyang was always welcome at negotiations – a sentiment counterparts Sung Kim from the United States and Kim Gunn from the ROK echoed.

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The DPRK has conducted missile tests at an unprecedented pace this year.

In mid-August, the North fired two cruise missiles from its west coast after the ROK and the United States resumed their largest field exercises in years. Pyongyang has long denounced the exercises as a rehearsal for war.

The ROK’s national security adviser, Kim Sung-han, said after the Hawaii meeting that he and his counterparts had agreed there would not be a "soft" response if the DPRK conducted a nuclear test. He did not give details, but the government has previously mentioned more sanctions.