Trilateral meeting tackles engagement with North
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong met U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Saturday in Hawaii, where the trio discussed engagement with North Korea and urged the recalcitrant regime to stop taking actions destabilizing the region.
“We condemn the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches and its unlawful nuclear ballistic programs, which are clear violations of UN Security Council resolutions,” Blinken said in a joint press conference, using the acronym of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
His comments were echoed by Chung, who said Seoul “especially regrets North Korea’s firing of an intermediate-range missile,” which took place on Jan. 30.
“We are strongly urging North Korea not to repeat such wrongful activities,” Chung added.
The joint announcement from the three countries’ chief diplomats follows a recent series of North Korean missile launches that have greatly heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea conducted seven missile tests in January alone, prompting the United States to convene three meetings of the United Nations Security Council to propose further sanctions.
The launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) in particularly seemed to signal the North’s intent to follow through with a Jan. 20 announcement, relayed by its state media, that the regime was considering scrapping a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and longer-range missile testing that has been in place since 2017.
Under Security Council resolutions, Pyongyang is barred from conducting tests of ballistic missile technology.
However, U.S. sanctions proposals to the international body have met with resistance from China and Russia, both veto-wielding Security Council members who have increased their engagement with the North amid tensions with the United States over Taiwan and Ukraine, respectively.
The trilateral meeting and subsequent joint press conference by Chung, Blinken, and Hayashi represents an effort by Washington to encourage greater trilateral cooperation among its main Asian allies, just as Moscow and Beijing appear to draw closer to Pyongyang.
That parallel was not missed by Blinken, who noted that North Korea could escalate its missile tests as the United States remains focused on deterring a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I certainly don't rule out that North Korea could engage in further provocative actions as things are happening in other parts of the world, including in Europe with regard to Ukraine,” the U.S. secretary of state said in response to the possibility of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test by the North.
The three foreign ministers also said they remained committed to dialogue with the North, which has not engaged in talks with the United States since the collapse of the 2019 Hanoi summit in Vietnam between then-U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"The Secretary and the Foreign Ministers emphasized they held no hostile intent towards the DPRK and underscored continued openness to meeting the DPRK without preconditions," the joint statement said.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]