POLITICS

Japanese, US, and South Korean officials condemn the North’s weapons plans but urge dialogue

Jul 20, 2023, 1:16 AM | Updated: 7:28 pm

TOKYO (AP) — Senior officials from Japan, the U.S. and South Korea condemned North Korea over its recent ICBM-class ballistic missile launches and vowed to step up their trilateral cooperation to strengthen deterrence and sanctions against the North, while stressing the need for dialogue with Pyongyang.

Their meeting Thursday in the central Japanese city of Karuizawa comes days after North Korea’s solid-fuel ICBM launch last week, which landed in the water off the western coast of Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido and one day after the launch of two missiles on Wednesday.

The U.S. special representative for North Korea, Sung Kim, also said that the United States was “working hard” to gather information about an American soldier who fled to the North earlier this month. The U.S. was seeking to ensure his safety and return him home, Kim said.

Pvt. Travis King, 23, had been held in South Korea on assault charges and was released on July 10 after serving his time. He was taken to the airport Monday but did not board his flight home. Instead, he joined a tourist trip to the border and bolted to the North Korean side.

Kim said he and his Japanese counterpart, Takehiro Funakoshi, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry, and South Korea’s Kim Gunn, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, were to also discuss their leaders’ summit planned for next month in the United States.

In his opening remarks, Japan’s Funakoshi said Tokyo seeks to further strengthen the three-way security cooperation to enhance deterrence and implement sanctions against the North over its missile advancement in violation to the United Naitons’ Security Council resolutions. However, he also stressed the need for dialogue with the North.

He reiterated that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “without any preconditions” to resolve the decades-old issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals.

Sung Kim said the United States had “no hostile intent” and that “we are willing and ready to sit down at the negotiating table to work through our differences.”

South Korea’s Kim said the three officials were to affirm their intent for dialogue with North Korea, while discussing ways to strengthen “close communication to bring North Korea back to the path to denuclearization and to encourage China’s constructive role.”

He noted the start of this week’s launch of a nuclear consultation between Seoul and Washington, saying North Korea “undermined its own security”, while its attempt to intimidate the two allies only upgraded their cooperation on nuclear deterrence.

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