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Japan, U.S., South Korea discuss coordinated response to North Korean nuclear test

AP, Kyodo, Reuters

The United States, Japan and South Korea have roundly condemned North Korea’s recent nuclear test and called for tough new measures to further isolate the communist state.

Meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Monday that the North Korean test earlier this month would not go unanswered.

The test was North Korea’s fifth and, along with recent ballistic missile launches, has been widely criticized as destabilizing to regional and international security.

The North had conducted a spate of ballistic missile launches — including sending missiles into waters close to Japan — that experts say shows improvement in their ability to hit far-off targets.

Kerry said the U.S. remains deeply committed to its mutual defense obligations with Japan and South Korea and will not shirk in “rolling back the provocative, reckless behavior of” North Korea.

He said the U.S., Japan, South Korea and others will “make it clear to a reckless dictator that all he is doing through his actions is isolating his country, isolating his people and depriving his people of genuine economic opportunity.”

“The global community will not be intimidated and will not pull back from our obligations,” Kerry said. He called for North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un to freeze Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs immediately and return to denuclearization talks.

Yun echoed Kerry’s comments, calling North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests a “ticking time bomb” and a threat to world safety.

“What we see is a looming perfect storm that may not only pounce on Northeast Asia but sweep over the entire world,” he said.

The Obama administration has been nudging Japan and South Korea to set aside historical differences and cooperate more closely in diplomacy and security as the threat posed by North Korea intensifies.

Kishida said the U.S. alliances and a “forward-looking” relationship between Japan and South Korea are needed for regional peace and stability in Asia’s “tough” security environment.

“We must make North Korea understand that repeated provocations will isolate them from the international community and that there can be no bright future for them at all,” Kishida said.

In a joint statement, the three governments said they “explored ways to work together” to ensure that countries fully implement existing U.N. sanctions on North Korea. They also discussed work in the Security Council to tighten the sanctions and the possibility of taking measures of their own to restrict revenue sources for the North’s missile and nuclear programs.

According to the statement, the three ministers considered “ways to further restrict revenue sources” for North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons development.

Asked by reporters whether further U.N. restrictions would be imposed on North Korea’s shipment of coal, iron and iron ore, the country’s major export items, Kishida declined to comment and only said the three ministers “had a deep exchange of views.”

The trio also reaffirmed that they remain open to “credible and authentic talks aimed at full and verifiable denuclearization of the DPRK,” referring to North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The U.S. has said it is willing to negotiate with the North if it commits to denuclearization, which Pyongyang has refused to do.

Washington has pressed Beijing, Pyongyang’s most important diplomatic backer and trading partner, to do more to rein in North Korea.

China has expressed anger with North Korea for its largest nuclear test to date but has not said directly whether it will support tougher sanctions. It has said it believes sanctions are not the ultimate answer and has called for a return to talks.