April 25, 2017 9:59 am JST

Japan, US, South Korea diplomats meet to lean on North Korea

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Senior officials from Japan, the United States and South Korea met Tuesday to explore ways to pile up pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs amid heightened regional tensions.

The meeting in Tokyo came amid expectations North Korea may conduct a sixth nuclear test or test-fire ballistic missiles around the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army on Tuesday.

Kenji Kanasugi, director general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Joseph Yun, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, and Kim Hong Kyun, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs at the South Korean Foreign Ministry, took part in the talks.

The officials are expected to agree to bolster trilateral coordination in the monitoring of North Korea, which conducted two nuclear tests and test-fired more than 20 ballistic missiles last year alone in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, Japanese officials said.

At the meeting, the diplomats are also likely to confirm the importance of the role of China, North Korea's main diplomatic and economic benefactor, in halting the reclusive state's nuclear and missile programs.

The United States has said all options, including military action, are "on the table" in dealing with North Korea's pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, a position firmly backed by Japan.

Amid the tense situation, Japan and the United States started a joint naval drill in the Western Pacific on Sunday involving two Japanese destroyers and the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, which is heading to waters off the Korean Peninsula.

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