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(LEAD) U.S. offers high-level talks with S. Korea, Japan over trade spat: top official

07:06 July 12, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks on Japan, North Korea in paras 4-5, 11-14)
By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, July 11 (Yonhap) -- The United States has offered to hold trilateral high-level talks with South Korea and Japan to resolve a growing trade spat between the Asian nations, but Tokyo has yet to respond, a top South Korean presidential official said Thursday.

Kim Hyun-chong, deputy chief of Cheong Wa Dae's National Security Office, said Seoul and Washington are eager to have the meeting to discuss Japan's recent export curb measures against South Korea.

Kim Hyun-chong (R), deputy chief of Cheong Wa Dae's National Security Office, speaks to reporters outside his hotel in Washington on July 11, 2019. (Yonhap)

"We would like to seek a constructive solution, but the Japanese side still hasn't responded," Kim told reporters outside his hotel in Washington, where he has been meeting with White House officials and members of Congress to raise awareness of South Korea's position in the dispute.

"A high-level American official will be traveling to Asia, so the U.S. wanted to use the opportunity to have a three-way meeting, but while South Korea and the U.S. are very eager, the Japanese side appears to be a bit passive," he later elaborated before heading to a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

When asked, he declined to say whether the U.S. official is David Stilwell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia who is due to visit South Korea and Japan in the coming days.

Last week, Japan toughened restrictions on exports of key materials used in semiconductors and displays in apparent retaliation for a South Korean court ruling that ordered Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Tokyo's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea has raised the case at the World Trade Organization and sought to explain the move's damaging effects on not only the South Korean economy but also the U.S. and world economies.

Kim said he held talks with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday, as well as with members of the Senate.

Mulvaney expressed hope that the two U.S. allies will be able to resolve the dispute in a constructive manner, according to Kim.

The senators he met also voiced similar opinions, he said, adding that he wouldn't comment on whether a possible U.S. mediation role was discussed in any of his meetings.

On Friday, Kim is scheduled for talks with Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman.

He said the two will discuss a wide range of issues, including negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons program and what the U.S. aims to achieve as the end state.

The U.S. and North Korea are expected to resume talks in the middle of this month in line with an agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their meeting at the inter-Korean border on June 30.

"I can't say for certain whether they will be held next week or the week after," the South Korean official said. "We're still waiting for a response, so I think we'll have to wait and see."


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