Japan, U.S., South Korea vow to step up pressure on Pyongyang

Kyodo News

Posted at Aug 07 2017 10:02 PM

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho attends the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Manila on Monday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

The foreign ministers of Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed Monday to ramp up international pressure on North Korea so as to compel the country to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

They affirmed it is vital that the international community as a whole "steadily enforce" U.N. sanctions on North Korea, including the latest package adopted Saturday in response to Pyongyang's test-launches of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month, a Japanese official told reporters after a trilateral meeting in Manila.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha underscored that China, Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bear important roles in pressuring North Korea and making U.N. sanctions more effective, the official said.

The ministers also agreed to explore "effective forms of pressure" in curbing North Korea's weapons development, including a call on China to restrict oil supplies to the North, according to the official.

China accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea's trade and is a major supplier of oil to the country.

Faced with the rising threat posed by North Korea, the three ministers affirmed that greater pressure, rather than simply more talks, is needed so as to force North Korea to take specific action toward denuclearization.

In July, North Korea conducted two ICBM tests, the second of which was, for the first time, apparently capable of hitting the U.S. mainland in a show of major progress in its missile technology which -- when perfected -- could deliver nuclear weapons to Washington or New York.

In Monday's trilateral meeting, Kono was quoted by the Japanese official as saying that China plays a key role in dissuading North Korea from conducting further provocative acts.

Kono proposed that Tokyo, Washington and Seoul push Beijing to do more in reining in Pyongyang.

Last month, Tillerson criticized Beijing and Moscow for being "the principal economic enablers" of North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs.

Tillerson and Kang "strongly backed" Japan's efforts to address the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the official.

Banning North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood, Saturday's new U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution could cut a third off its $3 billion of annual export revenue.

The U.S.-drafted resolution also bans countries from increasing the current numbers of North Korean laborers working abroad, prohibits new joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures.

Kono, Tillerson and Kang met on the fringes of a series of foreign ministerial meetings of the 10-member ASEAN and other regional powers in the Philippine capital.

In a meeting Saturday in Manila, the ASEAN foreign ministers expressed "grave concerns" about the escalation of regional tensions in the wake of North Korea's ICBM tests, urging Pyongyang to immediately comply fully with its obligations under Security Council resolutions banning it from conducting nuclear and missile activities.