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Top diplomats from Japan, U.S., South Korea plan brainstorming session on North Korea

Kyodo

ew York

Japan, the United States and South Korea will bring their foreign ministers together by the end of the month to coordinate efforts to pressure North Korea over its weapons-testing activities, diplomatic sources say.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se will affirm their commitment to strengthening sanctions against the North if it continues provocative activities, including another nuclear arms test, the sources said Saturday.

The three countries are considering holding the talks on the sidelines of a U.N. Security Council ministerial meeting set to be held in New York next Friday. The prospective meeting will likely address Pyongyang’s test-firing of multiple ballistic missiles and the increased tensions in the region caused by threats of an imminent nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile test.

At the Security Council meeting, chaired by the United States, North Korea’s nuclear and missile development program will be on the agenda, while senior officials from the three countries will meet Tuesday in Tokyo for further discussions.

Kishida said in Japan on Saturday that China can play a large part in dealing with the North Korean issues. China is North Korea’s main economic and political benefactor.

“We would like to urge China at the U.N. Security Council ministerial meeting” to more actively join efforts to push Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programs, he told reporters.

The United States said a naval strike group will be sent to waters near the Korean Peninsula in a move apparently aimed at increasing pressure on North Korea.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson would arrive in the Sea of Japan before the end of the month.

Pence said at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney that the U.S. government believes peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be achieved through Washington’s overtures to China.

Commercial satellite imagery from April 19 indicates “that North Korea appears to have been preparing for a nuclear test,” the U.S.-Korea Institute of Johns Hopkins University said on its 38 North website Friday, referring to the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility in the northeastern part of North Korea.

In the wake of North Korea’s four ballistic missile launches on March 6, three of which landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said North Korea has entered a “new stage of threat.”