Japan, South Korea and the United States held a trilateral vice ministerial meeting Saturday in Tokyo to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea and lay plans to call on other nations, particularly China, to join efforts to enforce stronger sanctions against Pyongyang over its recent nuclear bomb test.
The three vice ministers who took part in the talks were Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki, South Korea’s First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lim Sung-nam and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
“The discussion we had today was very positive, productive and practical in advancing cooperation among our three countries,” Blinken told reporters at a joint news conference at the Iikura Guesthouse in Minato Ward, Tokyo, after the meeting.
Japan, South Korea, China, Russia and the United States each have a “profound stake in the stability in this region. The action of North Korea is the greatest source of its instability,” Blinken said.
“And we must act together accordingly,” he added.
The U.N. Security Council has repeatedly adopted resolutions enforcing economic sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.
But Japanese officials said North Korea has managed to exploit “loopholes” in the sanctions after they were implemented.
In order to draft a stronger U.N. Security Council resolution and fully implement fresh sanctions against the North, Beijing’s participation is critical.
“We hope China will take appropriate actions,” Saiki told the same news conference, saying Beijing has “the greatest influence” over North Korea.
“Toward adopting a resolution, China is strongly expected to fully cooperate and collaborate with the international community,” he said.
During the news conference, the officials emphasized the three countries are now ready to further strengthen trilateral cooperation on various diplomatic issues.
Lim said the three agreed to regularly hold vice ministerial meetings, adding that the next session will be held in South Korea.
Blinken meanwhile praised the recent agreement between Seoul and Tokyo over the “comfort women” issue, saying it “represents a very important gesture, healing and reconciliation.”
“Now we look forward to even stronger, constructive relations” between the two countries, he said.
Tokyo last month agreed to provide ¥1 billion for a fund that will be set up by Seoul for the surviving comfort women, who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels in the 1930s and 1940s.
But some former comfort women in South Korea and their supporters have strongly condemned the agreement, demanding Japan should recognize its legal responsibility.