U.S., South Korea, Japan push for North Korea’s ‘irreversible denuclearization’

Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama, left, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, and Republic of Korea Vice Minister Lim Sung-nam, right, met in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to discuss wide-ranging issues, including provocations by North Korea. The three countries said they would reaffirm their commitment to work for a denuclearized North Korea. Photo courtesy of Antony Blinken

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) — The United States, South Korea and Japan have agreed to increase efforts to pressure North Korea to further isolate the country into “irreversible denuclearization.”

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Republic of Korea Vice Minister Lim Sung-nam and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama met in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to discuss several issues, including cybersecurity, energy, health and economic policies, but North Korea’s increased provocations related to its nuclear capabilities led the agenda.

“North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs directly threaten the security of the United States, Japan, and the ROK. Our three countries share the belief that the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea remains the only viable option to safeguard peace and security. North Korea’s provocations only serve to deepen its isolation,” the U.S. Department of State said in a statement following the trilateral meeting.

The State Department said the three countries will continue working to make sure other countries implement all United Nations sanctions against North Korea, adding that the international community should also consider North Korea’s “economic deprivation and horrific human rights abuses at the hands of the Kim Jong Un regime.”

The North Korean leader on Sunday said Pyongyang has nearly completed its efforts to test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Theoretically, the warhead could reach U.S. shores.

“There is broad international consensus that North Korea must refrain from its destabilizing actions and rhetoric, and focus on honoring its international obligations and commitments,” the U.S. State Department added. “These sanctions, along with our close trilateral coordination on our respective new unilateral sanctions against North Korea, are the latest steps in our ongoing efforts to convince North Korea that the only path to the economic development and international recognition it claims to seek is by returning to credible and meaningful negotiations on denuclearization.”

During a press conference, Blinken said it was “absolutely vitally important that we exercise sustained comprehensive pressure on North Korea to get it to stop these programs.”

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