(ATTN: UPDATES with minor edits throughout, more info in last 5 paras; CHANGES photo)
SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) -- The top nuclear envoys of South Korea, the United States and Japan held trilateral talks here on Friday during which they called for the international community to repatriate all North Koreans working overseas in line with U.N. sanctions over the North's provocations.
Seoul's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Gunn, met with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi, respectively, at the foreign ministry building and discussed joint efforts to counter growing nuclear and missile threats from Pyongyang. They last held such a trilateral session in December in Jakarta.
In a statement, Seoul, Washington and Tokyo urged the international community to repatriate all North Korean workers abroad and called on Pyongyang to abide by its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"We reiterate with concern that overseas DPRK IT workers continue using forged identities and nationalities to evade UNSC sanctions and earn income abroad that funds the DPRK's unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs," they said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Under U.N. sanctions, all member states are required to repatriate any North Koreans earning income in their jurisdiction.
The three envoys also strongly condemned North Korea's recent missile provocations amid renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
"We express deep regret that the DPRK continues to ignore the hardship of its people, choosing instead to pour its scarce resources into its WMD and ballistic missile programs in clear violation of multiple United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions," the envoys said in their first joint statement since the launch of the conservative Yoon Suk Yeol administration in May last year.
Speaking to reporters at the start of the meeting, Kim stressed that Pyongyang's "nuclear obsession is nothing more than a self-destructive boomerang that destroys the future of all North Koreans."
"North Korea is misguiding its people to believe that nuclear weapons are a magic wand that can solve all of its problems," he said, pointing out that the North's unlawful nuclear development will only shatter its economy and undermine security.
Kim emphasized that the three countries will "effectively counter" North Korea's future provocations and cut the revenue streams that fund its illegal activities, as the reclusive regime is gearing up to reopen its borders.
"In this vein, I am happy to announce that today we are issuing a joint statement highlighting the importance of fully implementing the U.N. Security Council resolutions, including the repatriation of all North Korean overseas workers," he said.
The envoy then criticized the North for employing a "cry-after-bully strategy" by threatening to use nuclear weapons and then "shamelessly" pretending to be a victim "in false hopes to earn sympathy."
The U.S. nuclear envoy echoed Kim's view that the North threatens the security of the international community with its pursuit of weapons prohibited by the U.N.
"The DPRK threat is a shared problem and we are developing shared solutions to counter it," he said. "And of course at the center of our efforts is our unwavering commitment to seeking complete denuclearization."
He voiced hope that the North will soon open its borders to international humanitarian workers, whose aid efforts have been hindered by the border closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Funakoshi said improvement in bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo will "definitely help further deepen trilateral cooperation" as he noted Yoon's historic visit to Japan last month.
The three countries will align their views during the meeting on ways to further enhance coordination in terms of deterrence, security cooperation and multilateral cooperation, he added.
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