• Kyodo, Bloomberg

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Senior diplomats from Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed Tuesday to continue their efforts toward the denuclearization of North Korea through "dialogue and sanctions," a Japanese foreign ministry official said.

Their meeting in Tokyo came a day after Pyongyang said it had successfully carried out tests of a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend.

At the outset of the three-way talks, Takehiro Funakoshi, head of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, said, "Our cooperation becomes all the more important as North Korea advances furthermore in its nuclear and missile development."

Sung Kim, U.S. special representative for North Korea, said in response, "We hope the DPRK will respond positively to our multiple offers to meet without preconditions." DPRK is the acronym of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

Noh Kyu-duk, South Korea's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, referred to the possibility of providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea.

U.S.-North Korea denuclearization talks are currently stalled, as they have fallen short of bridging the gap between Washington's push for complete denuclearization and Pyongyang's calls for sanctions relief.

Washington said Monday it remains ready to engage with Pyongyang toward ridding the country of its nuclear weapons even after North Korea announced the test-firing of the new cruise missile.

The United States has offered to meet "anywhere, anytime without preconditions" with North Korea, but Sung said Pyongyang has yet to respond to Washington's call.

About a day before U.S. President Joe Biden’s envoy arrived in Tokyo, North Korea said it tested new cruise missiles that flew in "pattern-8 flight orbits” for more than two hours on Saturday and Sunday, covering some 1,500 kilometers over land and waters off North Korea before hitting targets.

The tests, if confirmed, would be North Korea’s first reported missile launches since firing off two short-range ballistic missiles in March. The new cruise missiles were designed to fly below the radar and evade defense systems, which fits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s goal of deterring a U.S.-led attack.

North Korea is barred from launching ballistic missiles under United Nations resolutions, but its cruise missiles don’t face the same restrictions.

Even though Biden has indicated the U.S. could offer incentives that would help North Korea’s struggling economy in return for disarmament steps, Pyongyang has shown no interest in coming back to the talks that have been stalled for about two years.

The talks in Tokyo with the three envoys come as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was due to arrive in Seoul on Tuesday on a two-day trip that includes discussions with South Korean officials on issues such as the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

China is North Korea’s biggest benefactor, for years providing a lifeline that helped keep its neighbor’s struggling economy afloat. The Biden administration has told Beijing that it’s in its own self-interest to get Pyongyang back to the bargaining table.

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