By ELLEN KNICKMEYER
WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S.-sponsored show of alliance with Japan and South Korea stumbled Wednesday when American diplomats couldn’t convince their Asian allies to share a news conference stage.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was due to hold the press conference at the State Department with her counterparts, Choi Jong Kun of South Korea and Mori Takeo of Japan.
Instead, Sherman sat at a table alone, taking question from reporters from those countries. In explanation, she cited “some bilateral differences” between those two Asian allies of the U.S. “that are continuing to be resolved, unrelated to today’s meeting.”
Neighbors Japan and South Korea have no shortage of disputes — the Wikipedia entry on just that runs to 122 footnotes — on Japan’s wartime occupation of Korea and other historical matters, Japan’s handling of radioactive material from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, trade conflicts and other matters.
The United States has been working to build multiparty alliances in the Indo-Pacific as a deterrence to China’s own territorial claims there. The canceled three-party press conference appeared an unusual — and unusually public — warning of the limits of any such U.S., Japan and South Korea alliance.
Sherman maintained the three-country talks before the news conference had been successful.
In a statement, the U.S. said the three “reaffirmed that close cooperation” among them “is critical to address a broad range of global issues, including combatting the climate crisis; investing in clean energy and resilient infrastructure; upholding our shared democratic values and commitment to human rights; and working together to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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