Mike Pompeo to meet Japan, South Korea next week on North Korea tensions

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be meeting senior counterparts from Japan and South Korea during a Jan 12-15 trip to the San Francisco area. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet top officials from Japan and South Korea next week, officials said on Thursday (Jan 9), weeks after North Korea defiantly threatened a new weapon.

The State Department said that Mr Pompeo would meet senior counterparts from the two US allies during a Jan 12-15 trip to the San Francisco area.

The State Department did not provide further details but said Mr Pompeo would make public remarks, including at Stanford University.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a New Year's address declared an end to his regime's moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. He also threatened to demonstrate a "new strategic weapon".

His vow came after months of demands that the United States offer concessions to North Korea on the easing of punishing sanctions.

A self-imposed ban on such tests had been a centrepiece of the nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington over the past two years, which saw three meetings between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump, but little tangible progress.

Despite Mr Trump's insistence that Mr Kim had become his friend, his administration has insisted that it will not budge on sanctions until North Korea comprehensively denuclearises.

Mr Pompeo's talks also come as Japan and South Korea gradually ease tensions, which had spiked over emotionally charged disagreements related to colonial history.

The two US allies have also taken different nuances on North Korea, with South Korea's dovish President Moon Jae-in encouraging further diplomacy to entice Pyongyang.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rose to power campaigning on a hard line against North Korea, although he has backed the efforts of Mr Trump, with whom he has developed a close relationship.

While Washington was waiting for a threatened "Christmas gift" from Mr Kim, attention shifted in the New Year to soaring tensions with Iran after Mr Trump ordered the killing of its most prominent general.

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