(5th LD) Top diplomats of S. Korea, U.S., Japan urge N. Korea to halt provocations, resume dialogue
(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks from South Korean official in paras 25-27)
By Byun Duk-kun
HONOLULU, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- The top diplomats of South Korea, the United States and Japan on Saturday urged North Korea to halt its destabilizing actions and return to dialogue.
The joint call came after a trilateral meeting between South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi in Honolulu.
"We condemn the DPRK's ballistic missile launches and its unlawful nuclear ballistic programs, which are clear violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions," Blinken said in a joint press conference, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"And we continue to work to find ways to hold the DPRK accountable," he added.
The foreign ministerial talks here came after North Korea staged seven rounds of missile launches in January, marking the largest number of missile tests it has conducted in a single month.
Its missile launches also included the firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the longest-range ballistic missile fired by North Korea since late 2017.
Chung said the North Korean missile launches were "clearly wrong."
"North Korea's recent missile tests are clearly wrong activities. We especially regret North Korea's firing of an intermediate-range missile," he said in the joint press conference with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts.
"We are strongly urging North Korea not to repeat such wrongful activities," he added.
Blinken noted the possibility of North Korea continuing its missile tests amid the growing tension between the U.S. and Russia over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"I certainly don't rule out that North Korea could engage in further provocative actions as things are happening in other parts of the world, including in Europe with regard to Ukraine," the top U.S. diplomat said when asked about the possibility of North Korea staging an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.
Blinken said the U.S. is and will be able to deal with North Korea if necessary, even as it faces other global challenges.
"The bottom line is, and I think in a sense this week is a reasonable demonstration of that, we walk and chew gum at the same time," he told the press conference.
As a way of holding North Korea responsible for its actions, the top diplomats called for a full implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"The Secretary and Foreign Ministers condemned the DPRK's recent ballistic missile launches and expressed deep concern about the destabilizing nature of these actions," said the joint statement issued at the end of their trilateral talks.
"They called for full implementation by the international community of relevant UN Security Council resolutions relating to the DPRK and called on the DPRK to cease its unlawful activities and instead engage in dialogue," it added.
They still reaffirmed their commitment to dialogue with North Korea.
"The Secretary and the Foreign Ministers emphasized they held no hostile intent towards the DPRK and underscored continued openness to meeting the DPRK without preconditions," the joint statement said.
North Korea remains unresponsive to the U.S. outreach. It has also avoided any denuclearization talks since late 2019.
Blinken, Chung and Hayashi highlighted the importance of trilateral cooperation between their countries in dealing with North Korea.
"In this context, they committed to advance trilateral security cooperation," the joint statement said, without providing further details.
Chung earlier said this week's meetings in Honolulu were partly aimed at finding ways to bring North Korea back to dialogue.
He said the foreign ministers have discussed "various ways" to engage with North Korea, but that it was too early to discuss them publicly.
"I believe we may be able to introduce them at an appropriate time in the future," he said.
A South Korean official later explained one of the ways discussed Saturday was designed to send a stronger signal to the North.
"I can say there were discussions on a way that can better relay the U.S.' willingness to engage," the official told reporters while speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Our thoughts were delivered today and so it might take some time to assess such thoughts and make a decision," the official added, noting the new way was proposed by Seoul. "The reason we cannot say what exactly was discussed at this stage is because it takes time to review the proposal internally and make decisions."
The trilateral meeting followed Chung's bilateral talks with the Japanese foreign minister and then with his U.S. counterpart.
"The two ministers expressed concerns over North Korea's recent series of missile launches, and agreed to continue close cooperation between South Korea and the U.S. to prevent conditions on the Korean Peninsula from further deteriorating and for an early resumption of dialogue with North Korea," South Korea's foreign ministry said of the Chung-Blinken talks in a press release.
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