South Korea, the United States and Japan are moving to bolster trilateral cooperation, planning for a series of top-level meetings to discuss measures to deter the increasing nuclear threats from North Korea.
Kim Gunn, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs will hold bilateral and trilateral meetings Friday with his American and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi, respectively, according to Foreign Ministry here.
This is the first face-to-face meeting for the three countries since Kim’s appointment earlier this month, and also four months since the last meeting was held in Honolulu in mid-February.
In the following week, South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong will also meet with his counterparts, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori, who will travel to Seoul.
The relay of meetings is planned as follow-up events to US President Joe Biden’s visits to Seoul and Tokyo, where he held summits with the leaders of the respective countries to affirm their alliances amid growing nuclear threats and the US’ intensifying rivalry with China.
The three special envoys for North Korea of South Korea, Japan and the US are expected to discuss possible countermeasures to handle the recalcitrant regime’s military provocations, including its recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and also of a potential underground nuclear test that Pyongyang is expected to carry out soon.
Around the end of this month, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin is also expected to travel to Washington and Tokyo to meet with his respective counterparts.
Defense ministers of the three countries are also expected to hold a trilateral meeting during the Shangri-La Dialogue, an intergovernmental security forum scheduled to take place June 10-12 in Singapore.
While the defense chiefs of the three countries held telephone conversations in February, it would be the first for a face-to-face trilateral meeting to take place in over two years, since the last one in November 2019.
Pyongyang launched three missiles Wednesday in an apparent show of protest to Biden’s visit to Seoul and Tokyo. The three missiles that were launched — two short-range missiles and one ICBM — put all three countries, South Korea, the US and Japan, within their target ranges.
Following Pyongyang’s missile launches, the US had pushed for the passage of a new resolution aimed at imposing additional sanctions against the North at the United Nations Security Council, backed by South Korea and Japan.
The resolution, however, failed to pass Friday despite support from all Council members except China and Russia, which stood on North Korea’s side to veto the resolution.
South Korea, the US and Japan issued a rare joint statement condemning both of North Korea’s missile launches immediately after the UNSC resolution fell through.
“The United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and Japan strongly condemn recent Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) ballistic missile launches, commit to strengthen trilateral cooperation towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and full implementation of relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, and underscore continued openness to meeting with the DPRK without preconditions,” the statement issued by South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and US Secretary State Antony Blinken read.
ROK and DPRK refer to the official names of South Korea and North Korea, respectively.
“Each of these launches (by North Korea) violated multiple UNSC resolutions and posed a grave threat to the region and the international community. We urge the DPRK to abide by its obligations under UNSC resolutions and immediately cease actions that violate international law, escalate tensions, destabilize the region, and endanger the peace and security of all nations.”
The three countries also expressed regret for the UNSC’s failure to adopt the resolution aimed at toughening the sanctions against the North.
“In spite of 13 Security Council members’ support, we deeply regret that the UNSC failed to adopt a resolution in response to the DPRK’s blatant and repeated violations of UNSC resolutions,” the statement read.