S. Korea, U.S., Japan to take unbearable punitive action if N. Korea provokes

SEOUL/TOKYO-- Senior officials of South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed at a meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday to take unbearably strong punitive action against North Korea if the communist country launches a fresh military provocation, the South Korean participant said.

The three countries' chief negotiators on the North Korean nuclear issue held a meeting earlier in the day to coordinate their responses to advancing nuclear and missile threats by North Korea. Kim Hong-kyun, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs at the foreign ministry, represented the South Korean side, vis-a-vis his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Joseph Yun and Kenji Kanasugi.

The trilateral meeting comes amid unusually heightened tension after North Korea ratcheted up its ballistic missile tests and military threats to the U.S. and South Korea this year.

"(The three sides) agreed that we will strongly warn that North Korea should stop further strategic provocations, but we will take strong punitive action that the North could not bear if it pushes ahead with one despite the warning," Kim told reporters after the meeting.

"We had a discussion on the details (of what punitive action) but it is inappropriate to talk about the details," Kim said, only adding that the countries will consider stronger anti-North responses in the existing fields of U.N. Security Council resolution, country-level sanctions and international diplomatic pressure.

The diplomats denounced North Korea for posing a threat to the peace and stability of the international community, Kim said. "Since the North remains unchanged on its stance toward denuclearization, the efforts should be focused on keeping up and even further intensifying pressure on the North."

Also agreed in the trilateral meeting were trilateral efforts to secure China's "constructive role" in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs, Kim also said.

He said the planned April 28 meeting of the U.N. Security Council will be a pivotal venue for the ultimate achievement of the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear program.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se is expected to join the UNSC meeting to be chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The top diplomats would also hold a trilateral meeting on the issue with the Japanese foreign minister on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting.

Joseph Yun told reporters that China has a "very, very important role" to play in the denuclearization effort. Yun said the countries agreed to coordinate closely on the diplomatic, military and economic fronts.

With North Korea reportedly coming close to owning a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile, the U.S. Trump administration has been ramping up pressure on North Korea and persuading China to join efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

During his visit to Seoul last month, U.S. Vice President Pence declared that "all options are on the table," including military action.

A day earlier, Trump pledged to work together with Japan and China to get North Korea to give up its weapons programs during his phone conversations with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping.

The U.S. has also deployed its aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the region, as tensions remain high here.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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