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(2nd LD) S. Korea, U.S., Japan condemn N. Korea's nuclear, missile provocations

All News 13:53 July 15, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS VP Biden's remarks in last 2 paras, photo)

SEOUL, July 15 (Yonhap) -- The No. 2 diplomats from South Korea, the United States and Japan strongly condemned North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations as they agreed to step up cooperation for the North's denuclearization, Seoul's foreign ministry said Friday.

The agreement came during a trilateral meeting between South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Thursday (local time), the ministry said in a press release.

"The vice foreign ministers of the three countries shared the view that the North's pursuit of nuclear and missile development poses a grave and direct threat to them, and hurts peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula but the international community as a whole," the ministry said in a press release.

"We strongly condemned the North for its nuclear and missile provocations, while agreeing to beef up our trilateral coordination for the denuclearization of the country," it added.

The three also agreed to "actively" cooperate in fully enforcing sanctions against the North, adding that their priority should be placed on changing Pyongyang's calculus so it takes the path of denuclearization.

"As long as the North's provocations continue, (we) share the view that (we) should seek systematic, comprehensive and sustained sanctions on it," the ministry said.

As for the recently reached decision by South Korea and the United States to deploy an advanced missile defense system on the peninsula, Blinken made clear that the move is not aimed at a third country, apparently trying to alleviate concerns raised by some neighboring countries, including China.

Seoul and Washington announced Wednesday that they will deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in a small town located in the southern part of the country. The decision was made despite strong objection from China and Russia, which have expressed concerns that such a development will hurt their strategic security interests.

According to the ministry, Blinken said that the United States will keep taking necessary measures to protect its allies in the face of evolving nuclear and missile capacity of the North.

Meanwhile, praising Washington's recent move to impose sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for human rights violations, the three officials agreed to explore "creative" and "effective" measures that could increase pressure on the North related to the issue, the ministry said.

United States Vice President Joseph Biden said in a speech before the start of the trilateral meeting that the three countries share the same vision for the Asia-Pacific region, expressing hopes that their cooperation will keep improving going forward, the ministry said.

He was also quoted as saying that Washington is committed to strengthening its alliance with South Korea and Japan which are considered to be the backbone of its Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy that the U.S. has been making a strong push for.



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