WASHINGTON – Japan, the United States and South Korea warned North Korea on Monday of additional sanctions if it conducts another nuclear test, while agreeing to cooperate in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear threat.
“We made it clear we would make North Korea pay the corresponding cost if it pushes ahead with a nuclear test,” Hwang Joon-kook, a South Korean diplomat, told reporters after meeting his Japanese and U.S. counterparts in Washington.
The message from the three countries’ senior diplomats dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue followed the North’s recent threat that it could conduct “a new form” of nuclear test.
The meeting was part of efforts pledged in a summit among the nations last month in the Netherlands to address Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
Following Monday’s discussions, Japan, the United States and South Korea will hold talks among their senior working-level defense officials on April 17 and 18 in the United States in a bid to ratchet up their security cooperation on North Korea.
Hwang, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, said an additional nuclear test by North Korea will constitute “an all-out challenge to the international community and a serious threat to international peace and stability.”
The three countries agreed Monday to explore ways of resuming dialogue that could “lead to effective denuclearization of North Korea,” Hwang said.
Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, separately told reporters that he, Hwang and Glyn Davies, special U.S. representative for North Korea policy, reaffirmed their cooperation in dealing with the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
Davies, Ihara and Hwang met in Washington for the first trilateral senior working-level talks on North Korea since November.
The three officials are expected to head each country’s delegations if the China-hosted six-nation talks on North Korea denuclearization resume.
The multilateral talks also involving Russia have been stalled since 2008 when Pyongyang reactivated its nuclear programs, flouting its commitment in the framework to abandon them.
The main topic of Monday’s meeting was North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but Ihara said he briefed his U.S. and South Korean counterparts on his talks with a senior North Korean official in Beijing in late March.
The U.S. State Department said the three officials agreed “on the importance of improvements in inter-Korean relations and a resolution” of the issue of North Korea’s past abduction of Japanese nationals.
A North Korean envoy to the United Nations indicated last week the country could conduct a new form of nuclear test, fueling speculations that Kim Jong Un’s regime is preparing for further provocations following a series of military operations.
North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, leading the U.N. Security Council to adopt resolutions condemning them and various countries, including Japan, to impose economic sanctions.
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