SEOUL, April 11 (UPI) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed hope that Seoul and Tokyo would closely cooperate to bring about the denuclearization of North Korea and establish peace in the region.
His remarks came Wednesday in a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha who he met in Seoul.
Kono's two-day visit comes amid concerns that Japan has been sidelined while South Korea and the United States prepare for their respective summits with North Korea.
During his meeting with Kang, Kono reportedly lauded Seoul's efforts in creating the current atmosphere of peace between the two Koreas, JTBC reported.
He said he hoped there would be close cooperation between the South and Japan to bring about denuclearization as well as regional peace, security and prosperity.
Kang expressed hope that the upcoming summits with North Korea would serve as a major turning point to achieve denuclearization, adding that Seoul also hopes for cooperation with Japan to achieve their shared goals regarding the North Korea crisis.
She said the next few months will be a critical time on the Korean Peninsula, and for establishing peace in the Northeast Asian region.
A Seoul foreign ministry official who was at the meeting told reporters that Kono stressed the need to maintain pressure and sanctions on the North until Pyongyang takes substantial action to denuclearize, Yonhap reported.
He also requested Seoul to convey Japan's stance on the North's nuclear weapons and missile programs as well as raise the issue of Japanese abductees in the North, during the inter-Korean summit on Apr. 27.
Kang is said to have responded there is no change in Seoul's stance on maintaining sanctions and pressure on the North until there is significant progress in efforts to denuclearize.
Kono's trip to Seoul marks his first since taking office last August. He plans to pay a courtesy call to Moon and visit the Seoul National Cemetery to pay tribute to Korean veterans before he returns to Tokyo.