South Korea, Japan, US defence chiefs to meet in Singapore

SEOUL (AFP) - The defence chiefs of South Korea, Japan and the United States will hold their first trilateral meeting for four years at the end of this month, with North Korea likely to top the agenda.

The three top officials will meet on the sidelines of the annual Asia Security Summit to be held in Singapore from May 31 to June 2, a South Korean defence ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

It will be their first three-way ministerial-level meeting since 2009, with defence dialogue between Seoul and Tokyo having been marred in recent years by a long-running territorial dispute and other issues.

A senior Tokyo defence official told Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun that the US and its two key regional Asian allies needed to show a united front against recent provocations from North Korea which conducted its third nuclear test in February.

"If we don't hold a trilateral meeting, that would send North Korea the wrong message," the official said.

The Korean peninsula is only just emerging from a sustained period of elevated military tension, during which Pyongyang threatened the US and South Korea with nuclear strikes in response to UN sanctions imposed after its February test.