Japan, US, South Korea aim for tighter UN sanctions on Pyongyang
Japan, the United States and South Korea on Sunday affirmed closer coordination in the swift drafting of a new UN Security Council sanctions resolution on North Korea in response to its fifth and largest nuclear test earlier this month.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, US Secretary of State John Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se also agreed to cooperate in strengthening each country’s respective sanctions on North Korea, Kishida told reporters after their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“We agreed to closely coordinate for the swift adoption of a new Security Council resolution with further sanction measures, as well as for each country [to implement] measures of their own, so as to deal with a series of provocative acts by North Korea,” which has raised the threat-level in regional security, Kishida said.
In a joint statement issued after the trilateral meeting, the ministers condemned North Korea’s “accelerated, systematic and unprecedented campaign to develop an operational nuclear capability”, including the September 9 nuclear test, only eight months after the country conducted its fourth such test.
Pyongyang’s “flagrant disregard for multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions expressly prohibiting its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes requires even stronger international pressure on the regime” of leader Kim Jong-un, the statement said.
Washington, Tokyo and Seoul are pushing for a new Security Council sanctions resolution after the latest provocation in defiance of UN sanctions that were tightened in March.
The three countries “must be in the driver’s seat to lead the international debate” about the North Korean issue, Kishida told the meeting, part of which was open to the media.
“We must make North Korea understand that repeated provocations will isolate it from the international community and that there can be no bright future for it at all,” he said.
Yun said North Korea “cannot continue to deride the Security Council and the United Nations”, and that the Security Council “must swiftly adopt a robust new sanctions resolution and prove its credibility and authority”.
According to the statement, the three ministers considered “ways to further restrict revenue sources” for North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons development.
Asked by reporters whether further UN restrictions would be imposed on North Korea’s shipment of coal, iron and iron ore, the country’s major export items, Kishida declined to comment and only said the three ministers “had a deep exchange of views”.
But it remains uncertain whether China, the main diplomatic and economic benefactor of North Korea, will agree to impose potentially damaging penalties on Pyongyang for fear that pushing the regime too hard could lead to instability in the country.
Beijing has expressed opposition to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme, but China has a strategic interest in ensuring the stability of North Korea, a buffer zone from South Korea, a US ally, according to foreign affairs experts.
While calling for tighter sanctions on North Korea, the foreign ministers of Japan, the United States and South Korea on Sunday reaffirmed that they “remain open to credible and authentic talks aimed at full and verifiable denuclearisation of the DPRK”, the statement said.
DPRK is the acronym of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Speaking at the meeting, Kerry said the United States remained deeply committed to the defence of Japan and South Korea, Washington’s key Asian allies, and to “rolling back the provocative, reckless behaviour of the DPRK”.
Kerry urged Pyongyang to freeze its missile and nuclear programmes immediately and return to denuclearisation talks.
“The global community will not be intimidated and will not pull back from our obligations under the non-proliferation treaty and all of our international efforts to rein in nuclear weapons rather than see them proliferate,” he said.
Kerry and Yun threw support behind Kishida’s pledge for an early resolution to the issue of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
In a separate meeting, Kishida and Yun affirmed the importance of signing an agreement that would allow Japan and South Korea to exchange military intelligence, according to a Japanese official.
With the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, in mind, Kishida called on Yun to advance bilateral security cooperation in the wake of a series of provocations by North Korea, and Yun agreed to the need to promote such cooperation, the official said.
In 2012, the two governments were ready to sign the pact, but Seoul postponed it at the last minute due to public opposition.