South-U.S.-Japan defense chiefs decide to deal with North together
The defense chiefs of South Korea, the United States and Japan held phone talks on Thursday morning and decided to cooperate closely on dealing with the North Korean missile threat, according to the Defense Ministry.
The three-way talks between South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook and his counterparts, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, come as North Korea has drastically ratcheted up tensions in recent weeks through a series of missile tests, including the launch of a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) on Jan. 30.
"The three ministers have decided to work closely together against the North Korean missile threat and continue their efforts to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula," the Defense Ministry said in a press release after the talks.
At the meeting, Suh called North Korea's latest missile launches, including the test of the IRBM, “a direct and serious threat” and said it “constitutes an act causing instability in the local situation, as well as a challenge to the United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
Under successive United Nations Security Council resolutions, Pyongyang is barred from conducting tests of ballistic missile technology.
Suh also said during the talks that Seoul will strengthen its own defense capabilities as well as those based in the U.S.-South Korea alliance to counter Pyongyang’s growing nuclear and missile arsenal.
The U.S. defense secretary also reaffirmed Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to Seoul’s defense, according to the Defense Ministry.
The defense chiefs’ phone talks took place ahead of the three countries’ foreign ministers’ meeting in Hawaii on Saturday for talks on how to deal with the North.
Suh, Austin and Kishi originally considered conducting their talks in Hawaii in January but delayed the meeting due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
The three countries’ last face-to-face trilateral defense meeting took place on the sides of security talks involving Asean in Bangkok in November 2019.
Under the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, Washington has stepped up efforts to encourage trilateral defense cooperation among South Korea and Japan, with whom it has formal security alliances.
In recent weeks, Beijing and Moscow have shown signs of drawing closer together as they confront the United States over Taiwan and Ukraine.
The North’s Foreign Ministry has also lately publicized its efforts to revive trade and cooperate with China and Russia on common strategic interests, raising the specter of an anti-U.S. bloc forming.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]