Japan, South Korea and the United States have agreed to enhance security cooperation in response to rising threats from North Korea, as they condemned the country’s test of its first-ever solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Defence officials from the three countries discussed the regularisation of missile defence exercises and anti-submarine exercises as a deterrence as well as response to North Korea’s “nuclear and missile threats”. They also discussed ways to resume trilateral exercises, according to a joint statement issued on Friday at the end of the 13th Defence Trilateral Talks in Washington, DC.
They “condemned in the strongest terms the DPRK’s repeated violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs), including its continuous nuclear and missile provocations and illicit ship-to-ship transfers”.
DPRK is the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.
The statement also urged Pyongyang to “stop all destabilizing activities immediately” and “reaffirmed that a DPRK nuclear test, if conducted, would be met with a strong and resolute response from the international community”.
North Korea last tested a nuclear weapon in 2017 but the rapid expansion of its military arsenal in recent years has raised concern it may be preparing to resume nuclear testing.
Kim has ordered a rapid modernisation of the country’s weaponry with a record number of tests in 2022.
Developing solid-fuel technology, which is safer to use, easier to manoeuvre and faster to deploy than liquid-propelled variants, was a key part of Kim’s arms development plans.
Testing this year has ramped up amid large-scale joint military exercises by US and South Korean forces that Pyongyang claims are a rehearsal for invasion.
Talks on denuclearisation have been stalled since 2019 when a high-profile summit between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump collapsed.
The three defence officials repeated a call for North Korea to return to talks.
The “path to dialogue” remains open, the statement said.