Antony Blinken (centre) speaks during a meeting with South Korean and Japanese FMs in Honolulu. Reuters
The top diplomats of Japan, South Korea and the United States declared their unity against North Korea on Saturday after a series of ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts were meeting on Saturday in Hawaii to discuss the threat posed by nuclear-armed North Korea after Pyongyang began the year with a series of missile tests.
After a day of meetings in Honolulu, Blinken, South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa condemned the series of seven launches as "destabilizing" in a joint statement.
Pyongyang needs "to cease its unlawful activities and instead engage in dialogue," they said.
Some experts say North Korea is using the weapon's tests to put pressure on President Joe Biden’s administration to resume long-stalled nuclear negotiations as the pandemic puts further strain on an economy already battered by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions.
Antony Blinken (left) meets with South Korean FM Chung Eui-yong (right) in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday. AP
Biden’s administration has offered North Korea open-ended talks but has shown no willingness to ease the sanctions without meaningful cuts to the country’s nuclear programme.
The tests also have a technical component, allowing North Korea to hone its weapons arsenal. One of the missiles recently tested — the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile — is capable of reaching the US territory of Guam. It was the longest-distance weapon the North has tested since 2017.
North Korea appears to be pausing its tests during the Winter Olympics in China, its most important ally and economic lifeline. But analysts believe North Korea will dramatically increase its weapons testing after the Olympics.
The recent tests have rattled Pyongyang's neighbors in South Korea and Japan. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who helped set up the historic talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019, said last month that the tests were a violation UN Security Council resolutions and urged the North to cease "actions that create tensions and pressure.”
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong speaks during a meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday. AFP
The Security Council initially imposed sanctions on North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006. It made them tougher in response to further nuclear tests and the country’s increasingly sophisticated nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
China and Russia, citing the North's economic difficulties, have called for lifting sanctions like those banning seafood exports and prohibitions on its citizens working overseas and sending home their earnings.
Blinken arrived in Hawaii from Fiji, where he met with Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and other Pacific leaders to talk about regional issues, especially the existential risk posed by climate change. It was the first visit by a US secretary of state to Fiji since 1985.
"We agreed to further strengthen cooperation ... so that North Korea can immediately stop its illegal activities and return to denuclearisation talks," said South Korea's Cho Hyun-dong.
The trio also condemned North Korea's disregard of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and its deeply destabilizing implications for the region, spokesperson Ned Price said.
China hosts the leaders of squabbling neighbours South Korea and Japan on Tuesday, flexing its diplomatic muscle with America’s two key military allies in Asia and seeking regional unity on how to deal with a belligerent North Korea.
Washington's action, announced on Thursday, blocks any assets of three North Korean officials in the United States, a largely symbolic step against an isolated country that has defied international pressure over its weapons programmes.
Inaugurated in 2016, it was still among the newest projects in the Gaza Strip, the housing complex in the city of Khan Yunis boasting an impressive mosque, shops and gardens.
At the end of the visit, the People of Determination Empowerment Council at Dubai Police presented Maitha Yousuf with a commemorative gift, extending their heartfelt wishes for her continued excellence and success in her academic endeavours.
Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikhs and guests of the country witnessed on Sunday the “Union March”, which was organised by the Presidential Office and launched as part of the activities of the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival for 2023 in Al Wathba area in Abu Dhabi.
At least 26 people were injured — including a local cleric — and transferred to hospitals. Police helped reroute traffic in the area after condoning off the site, officials said. The interior minister of Gilgit-Baltistan called the incident an "act of terrorism.”