Korea, U.S., Japan vow to pressure North

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Korea, U.S., Japan vow to pressure North

South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed through defense and diplomatic channels to use “maximum pressure” to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table after its intercontinental ballistic missile test (ICBM) on July 4.

Chang Kyung-soo, South Korean Defense Ministry’s acting chief of policy planning office, held a video conference with David F. Helvey, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and Satoshi Maeda, director general for Japan’s defense policy, Wednesday to coordinate responses to Pyongyang’s launch of the Hwasong-14 missile test.

As a follow up to the agreements made during the three countries’ summit last week, they reaffirmed the importance of achieving the “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, said Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense, condemned Pyongyang’s ICBM launch, which violated UN Security Council resolutions, and called on other nations to pressure North Korea from further provocations and to return to serious denuclearization talks.

A joint statement released Friday after the summit between President Moon Jae-in, U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe echoed this statement, saying that the leaders “affirmed the importance of working together” on the matter “to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.”

The three leaders also agreed “to apply maximum pressure” on the North “to change its path, refrain from provocative and threatening actions, and take steps necessary to return to serious denuclearization dialogue.”

The top nuclear envoys of the three countries also agreed on Tuesday to sternly respond, including by pushing for a new sanctions resolution, and affirmed that the door for talks with Pyongyang remains open under the right circumstances, according to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kim Hong-kyun, special representative for peace and security affairs on the Korean Peninsula, met with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Joseph Yun and Kenji Kanasugi, on the sidelines of a regional security conference, the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, in Singapore.

They endorsed strong measures in the UN Security Council, including adopting a new resolution and enforcing existing ones, said the ministry, and emphasized the importance of Russian and Chinese cooperation in exerting pressure on the North.

Kim also explained Moon’s approach of a phased and comprehensive approach to the North, using both sanctions and dialogue.

But U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview on the “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Monday, “We will not negotiate to negotiate, which is a failed policy of multiple administrations of the past.”

Beijing, however, said it does not “hold the key” to solving the North Korean nuclear issue, and that it is not the “focal point” of the matter “nor the catalyst for escalation of tensions at present.”

“In recent days, certain people have been exaggerating and playing up the so-called ‘China responsibility’ theory,” Geng Shuang, spokesman of China’s Foreign Ministry, said in a briefing Tuesday. “Those people have either failed to grasp the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue comprehensively and accurately, or done this out of ulterior motives with an attempt to shirk responsibility.”

Geng did not specifically call out Washington or Trump, who has been calling on Beijing to do more to rein in the North, but added, “Enough of the so-called ‘China responsibility’ theory on the Korean Peninsula issue.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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