Diplomats from the United States, South Korea and Japan met in Seoul on Wednesday to discuss how to respond to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that Washington continues to view diplomacy as the primary means for solving the crisis, but added that the allies must be prepared for “any eventuality.”
“Our objective is, throughout that campaign of pressure, to bring North Korea to the negotiating table without preconditions so that we can achieve our objective of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Sullivan said at a news conference after the meeting.
“Diplomacy is our primary objective and primary means to addressing the threat posed by North Korea. But we need to be prepared to respond to any eventuality given the unpredictable nature of the regime in Pyongyang,” he added.
At a meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday before they travelled to the South Korean capital, Sullivan, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama and South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam vowed to find more ways to apply pressure on Pyongyang.
Reuters reported that Sullivan said in Tokyo that the U.S. would not rule out the possibility of direct talks with North Korea.
The countries’ top envoys will also discuss Wednesday the stalled nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea that also involved China and Russia. The six-party meetings were last held in late 2008.
The talks came as the U.S. and South Korea continued a week of military drills that began Monday in waters off South Korea’s east coast. Pyongyang sees the exercises as rehearsals for invasion.
North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September and launched missiles over Japan in August and September. It test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations has warned that “nuclear war can break out at any moment,” as the crisis on the Korean Peninsula “has reached the touch-and-go point.”
Kim In-ryong told the U.N. general assembly’s disarmament committee Monday that his country is the only nation that has been subject to “such an extreme and direct nuclear threat” from the United States since the 1970s.
Pyongyang has the right to possess nuclear weapons to defend itself, he said.
U.S. and Japanese diplomats agreed Tuesday to maximize pressure on North Korea to resolve tensions over its nuclear program.
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Sullivan met his Japanese counterpart, Shinsuke Sugiyama, and told reporters that the State Department is still focusing on diplomacy to eventually denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
“We must, however, with our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere, be prepared for the worst should diplomacy fail,” he said.
He said the U.S. must be prepared to defend itself and its allies.
Sugiyama reiterated Japan’s support for President Trump’s policy of keeping all options on the table, but stressed the need for a diplomatic solution by bolstering cooperation between Japan, U.S. and South Korea, and through cooperation with China and Russia.
The European Union announced new measures Monday to increase pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile program, including a complete ban on EU investment in North Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin also signed a decree to implement U.N. Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang.