(From left) US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the ROK's Vice-Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong and Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Takeo Mori attend a joint press conference after their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul on June 8, 2022. (JEON HEON-KYUN / POOL / AFP)
SEOUL - The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea's recent missile tests were "serious, unlawful" provocations, senior officials from the Republic of Korea, the United States and Japan said on Wednesday, urging Pyongyang to return to dialogue.
The three nations urged Pyongyang to abide by international sanctions and immediately cease actions that "escalate tensions or destabilize the region," according to a joint statement read
The ROK Vice-Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Takeo Mori made the comments as they gathered in Seoul, days after the DPRK conducted the latest in a series of missile tests and signs of preparations for what would be its first nuclear test since 2017.
The three-way meeting of the countries' No 2 diplomats is the first such gathering since November and the first since the ROK's President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May.
Mori's visit also marked such trip by the Japanese vice-foreign minister since late 2017 amid strained bilateral ties over issues including Japan's occupation of the Korean peninsula and war-time labor.
The trio urged Pyongyang to abide by international sanctions and immediately cease actions that "escalate tensions or destabilize the region," a joint statement read.
They also pledged to ramp up trilateral security cooperation to curb the North's threats, with Sherman reaffirming the US defense commitments, including extended deterrence.
"They stressed that a path to serious and sustained dialogue remains open and urged the DPRK to return to negotiations, while also expressing their hope that the DPRK will respond positively to international offers of assistance to fight against COVID-19," the statement read.
The DPRK has carried out at least 18 rounds of weapons tests this year, underscoring its evolving nuclear and missile arsenals.
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In its latest test, the DPRK fired eight short-range ballistic missiles, likely its largest single launch, a day after the ROK and the United States ended joint military drills involving an American aircraft carrier.
The allies launched eight surface-to-surface missiles on Monday in their own show of force responding to the North's test.
The ROK’s President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, and US President Joe Biden vowed at their recent summit to deploy more US strategic military assets as part of efforts to bolster the extended deterrence.
Yoon expressed serious concerns and vowed to sternly respond to the North's actions but said he would leave the door open for dialogue, his office said on Wednesday.
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