(ATTN: UPDATES with Seoul's foreign ministry's press release in 14th para; RECASTS dateline)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON/SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday condemned North Korea's recent missile tests in a telephone conversation with his Japanese counterpart Hayashi Yoshimasa.
The top U.S. diplomat also vowed cooperation with South Korea and Japan to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, according to state department spokesperson Ned Price.
"Secretary Blinken condemned the DPRK's recent ballistic missile launches, which were in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and committed to trilateral cooperation with Japan and the Republic of Korea towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Price said in a press release.
The Blinken-Hayashi call came after North Korea launched an intermediate range ballistic missile on Sunday (Seoul time) that it later identified as a "Hwasong 12-type ground-to-ground intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile."
The launch marked the North's seventh missile test this year.
Price on Monday said the U.S. will continue to seek diplomacy with North Korea but also steps to hold the North accountable for its actions.
Earlier reports said the U.S. has called for a U.N. Security Council meeting to be held this week to discuss North Korea's recent series of missile tests.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman also denounced the North's recent missile launches as "escalatory" and "destabilizing" in a three-way conversation with her Japanese and South Korean counterparts on the day.
"Deputy Secretary Sherman denounced the DPRK's recent and escalatory ballistic missile launches as violations of UN Security Council resolutions and destabilizing to the region and discussed ongoing efforts to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Price said of Sherman's call with South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mori Takeo.
"The Deputy Secretary highlighted the United States' continued readiness to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy with the DPRK in order to make tangible progress," he added in a press release.
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
Sherman and her Japanese and South Korean counterparts highlighted the importance of cooperation between their countries in dealing with regional challenges, according to the department spokesperson.
"The Deputy Secretary and vice foreign ministers reaffirmed the importance of trilateral cooperation between the United States, the ROK, and Japan in tackling pressing challenges in the region and across the globe," he said, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.
In a separate press release on the trilateral talks, Seoul's foreign ministry said that Choi, his U.S. and Japanese counterparts urged the North to stop escalatory actions and take a "path of dialogue and diplomacy."
The three-way conversation also came after U.S. special representative for North Korea, Sung Kim, held discussions with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, separately, over the weekend.
During his talks, the U.S. special envoy condemned North Korea's recent missile launch, but also stressed U.S. readiness for serious and sustained diplomacy with the North, the state department said.
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