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(2nd LD) S. Korea, U.S., Japan seek effective sanctions on N. Korea

All News 20:53 January 16, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with officials' remarks)

TOKYO, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- Top diplomats from South Korea, the United States, and Japan agreed Saturday to push for a "strong and comprehensive" response to North Korea's recent nuclear test.

"We have agreed to send a strong and clear message (to the North) through substantial measures with a sense of urgency," South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam told reporters.

If the international community does not take actions now to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, it would have to pay a higher price later on, he added.

He was speaking after trilateral talks in Tokyo with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Japan's Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki.

It marked the highest-level group consultations among the regional powers since the North's Jan. 6 nuclear test, which the reclusive nation claims to have been hydrogen-based.

The U.N. Security Council is working on a resolution to punish Pyongyang.

"The three nations have agreed to focus their diplomatic capabilities on adopting a strong and comprehensive resolution at an early date," Lim said.

Blinken also said, "The failure to take significant measures now almost guarantees North Korea will continue to repeat these moves. It's the opposite of what we seek in the region."

The three sides were united in calling on China to join their efforts as a permanent member of the council and the North's largest trade partner.

"Japan, South Korea, China, Russia and the United States have a profound stake in the stability of this region," Blinken said. "We must act together."

The Japanese vice foreign minister also said his country hopes "China, which has influence on North Korea, will act appropriately and cooperate in adopting a resolution with strong content."

China was quick to condemn the North's nuclear test. But it is apparently seeking to water down the U.N.-led sanctions on the North in a familiar pattern following its nuclear and long-range missile tests.

South Korea's chief nuclear envoy Hwang Joon-kook met with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei in Beijing on Thursday.

They agreed on the need for a "clear and certain" response to the North's latest provocation.

Wu, however, voiced worries that harsh additional sanctions on Pyongyang will make the resumption of dialogue more difficult, according to a diplomatic source.

Meanwhile, Lim, Blinken and Saiki discussed security conditions in the Middle East including the Syrian and Iraqi issues.

They took note of the seriousness of the situations and agreed to explore ways to handle the matter.

"In that regard, South Korea, the U.S., and Japan decided to hold director general-level consultations on the Middle East issue in the first half of this year," Lim said.

The three nations also agreed to regularize the vice foreign ministerial talks on regional and global affairs.

The next session will be held in Seoul at a convenient time for all sides, said Lim.

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