SINGAPORE – The defense ministers of Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed Friday they would work together to ensure U.N. sanctions against North Korea are strictly enforced, including blocking ship-to-ship transfers of goods.
South Korea is not currently part of international efforts to monitor North Korea’s transfer of goods at sea, prohibited under the sanctions.
Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya sought cooperation from South Korea on the issue, and the country’s Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo responded positively, according to Iwaya.
Iwaya also told reporters that he agreed with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Jeong that cooperation among their defense authorities is necessary for North Korea’s denuclearization.
The trilateral meeting came ahead of a proposed second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which Trump expects to realize in the near future.
The historic U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore in June boosted expectations for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but no tangible progress has been made since then.
“We’d like to have hopes but we also need to view developments regarding North Korea’s denuclearization carefully,” Iwaya told his U.S. and South Korean counterparts at the meeting.
The three defense chiefs confirmed their support for diplomatic efforts in achieving North Korea’s denuclearization in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.
During the meeting, which was held on the sidelines of the annual ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus, Mattis also expressed concern about China’s militarization of the South China Sea.
The defense ministers from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have gathered with their counterparts from eight major powers outside the region — the United States, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Russia, Australia and New Zealand.