Top nuclear envoys from Japan, the United States and South Korea held talks in Tokyo on Tuesday to discuss how to rein in North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes, a day after Pyongyang said it conducted a new long-range missile test.
North Korea’s state media announced on Monday what it said were successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile that analysts said could be the country’s first such weapon with nuclear capabilities.
“The recent developments in the DPRK are a reminder of the importance of close communication and cooperation from the three countries,” Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, said in his opening remarks, using the initials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, its official name.
The three countries have been discussing ways to break a standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which have drawn international sanctions.
In meeting with his Japanese counterpart Takehiro Funakoshi and South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu-duk, Kim said Washington remained open to diplomacy to deal with North Korea issues.
The three agreed “dialogue and diplomacy was urgent to accomplish the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Denuclearisation has been a goal, although not clearly defined, since former U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-In met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in 2018.
South Korea and the United States also discussed ways to engage Pyongyang, including the possibility of a joint humanitarian project in North Korea, South Korea’s foreign ministry added, without providing further details.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is still prepared to engage with Pyongyang despite the recent missile test, but has so far shown no willingness to ease sanctions.
Pyongyang has said it sees no sign of policy changes from the United States, citing issues such as sanctions as well as joint military drills with South Korea, which it says are preparation for an attack.
While Washington is a close military and economic ally of both Japan and South Korea, ties between the Asian neighbours have often been strained over issues including sovereignty disputes, Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the Korean peninsula, and their wartime history.
Any joint approach to dealing with North Korea would also need to consider China, the reclusive state’s main backer.