(ATTN: UPDATES with details of press release from the state department in paras 9-11; CHANGES dateline)
By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL/WASHINGTON, May 25 (Yonhap) -- The top diplomats of South Korea, the United States and Japan strongly condemned North Korea's latest missile launches in back-to-back phone talks Wednesday, according to Seoul's foreign ministry.
Foreign Minister Park Jin and his American counterpart Antony Blinken agreed to cooperate closely in a push for a new U.N. Security Council resolution against Pyongyang, as they called the North's move a "grave provocation" that only leads to its isolation and threatens regional peace and stability, it added.
Park also had a call with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to discuss their joint responses to the North's missile tests and concurred that the international community needs to carry out a "stern and unified response" against the provocations, the ministry said in a separate release.
Park and Yoshimasa agreed to step up trilateral cooperation between South Korea, Japan and the U.S. to counter the North's nuclear and missile threats, it noted.
It remains unclear whether the U.N. panel will adopt additional sanctions on Pyongyang, which many say depends primarily on the positions of the veto-wielding permanent members of China and Russia.
Earlier in the day, the North lobbed an apparent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and two other ballistic ones into the East Sea, the South's military said.
Park and Blinken shared the same view that it is "very regrettable" that the Kim Jong-un regime is diverting its scare resources to its nuclear and missile programs while the nation's people are suffering from the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the ministry.
They also noted that the weekend summit between South Korea and the U.S. served as a "milestone" for upgrading their alliance into a "global comprehensive strategic partnership," and agreed to have follow-up discussions when Park visits the U.S. soon, it added.
The state department said the top U.S. diplomat also reaffirmed the U.S.' commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan in his separate calls with Park and Japan's Hayashi.
"Secretary Blinken, Foreign Minister Park, and Foreign Minister Hayashi strongly condemned the DPRK's ballistic missile launches as a clear violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions," department spokesperson Ned Price said of the calls in a press release, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"Secretary Blinken noted the United States' commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad and affirmed the importance of continuing close trilateral cooperation with the ROK and Japan to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he added.
Arrangements are under way for Park to visit to Washington next month, according to informed sources.
On Wednesday, Kim Gunn, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, had back-to-back phone calls with his American and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi, respectively, to discuss the North's missile launch and joint responses, the ministry said in separate statements.
The Seoul envoy also talked over the phone separately with Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming and Russian Ambassador Andrey Kulik. He stressed the need for a unified response over North Korea's missile tests and asked for their countries' support at the U.N. Security Council.
In response, the ambassadors reaffirmed their commitment to playing a "constructive role" for a peaceful resolution of Korean Peninsula issues, it noted.
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