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S. Korea, US, Japan ready to handle contingencies as Pyongyang prepares 7th nuke test

Three nations prepared to make short-, long-term adjustments to deal with NK provocations

South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, Kim Gunn (center), grasps hands with US Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim (right) and Takehiro Funakoshi, the director general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)
South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, Kim Gunn (center), grasps hands with US Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim (right) and Takehiro Funakoshi, the director general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)

South Korea, the United States and Japan are closely coordinating to prepare for all contingencies, as North Korea is seen to be preparing for a seventh nuclear test, a US special envoy for North Korea said Friday.

In a trilateral meeting in Seoul, US Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, Kim Gunn, and Takehiro Funakoshi, director general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, discussed measures to deter increasing nuclear threats from Pyongyang, and vowed to bolster trilateral cooperation.

“The US assesses that the DPRK is preparing its Punggye-ri test site for what would be its seventh nuclear test. This assessment is consistent with the DPRK’s own recent public statements,” Sung Kim said in his opening remarks before the trilateral consultation meeting began. DPRK refers to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.

“We are preparing for all contingencies in close coordination with our Japanese and ROK allies,” the US envoy said, adding that the three countries are also prepared to make both short- and long-term adjustments to their military posture to deal with North Korea’s provocations. ROK refers to Republic of Korea, South Korea’s official name.

The representatives of the three countries condemned the series of missile launches by Pyongyang this year as in violation of the United Nations sanctions, and urged the reclusive regime to enter dialogue.

Kim reiterated that their goal is consistent for complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and added, “The only viable path forward for the DPRK is through diplomatic negotiations.”

“We do remain committed to seeking dialogue with the DPRK and continue to hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our offers to meet without preconditions,” Kim said.

Seoul’s representative Kim Gunn also highlighted the importance of trilateral cooperation in handling the provocations from the recalcitrant regime, and warned that Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions only runs “counter” to its own interest.

“North Korea’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons will only end up strengthening our deterrence. This will ultimately run counter to Pyongyang’s own interest,” Kim said.

“Simply put, the course that Pyongyang is currently embarking on has only one inevitable destination -- reduced security for North Korea itself,” Kim said, adding that prolonged isolation will only worsen the already dire economic situation for the regime.

At the same time, Kim expressed concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in the North, and stressed that South Korea is willing to provide related humanitarian assistance. The US and Japanese representatives expressed similar concerns.

“I would like to express concern at the grave hardship faced by the North Korean people due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. ... I hope North Korea will respond positively to international offers of assistance,” Kim Gunn said.

Takehiro Funakoshi stressed the trilateral cooperation of Seoul, Tokyo and Washington and the need to discuss response measures in depth.

“Trilateral cooperation amongst Japan, US and the ROK is all the more important and I am sure that our trilateral cooperation will be further advanced,” Funakoshi said.

The Japanese director general also expressed regret that the UN Security Council failed to pass a US-drafted resolution aimed at imposing fresh UN sanctions on Pyongyang for its recent missile tests.

“We also need to discuss our coordination at the UN front. We deeply regret that draft resolution proposed by the US was vetoed,” Funakoshi said.

The resolution failed to pass the UN’s top decision-making body due to vetoes from China and Russia, two permanent members of the UNSC. The 13 other members voted in favor.

Friday’s gathering was the first face-to-face meeting between the three countries since South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol was inaugurated on May 10, and four months since the last meeting was held in Honolulu in mid-February.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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