TOKYO -- Japan, the U.S. and South Korea will assist Southeast Asian nations in improving their ability to interdict shipments of missiles and other contraband, seeking to give teeth to new sanctions on North Korea.
United Nations Security Council members are discussing a draft resolution condemning the North's latest declared nuclear test and calling for additional sanctions. Senior Japanese, American and South Korean diplomats agreed Saturday to cooperate on capacity-building efforts to enable countries that trade with the isolated nation to take effective countermeasures of their own.
The U.S. and its East Asian allies envision support for stricter cargo checks on North Korea-bound ships. The Japanese government will consider development assistance to fund training for foreign customs agents. Aid also likely will be provided for adopting precision equipment able to detect shipments of nuclear and other banned materials.
Foreign affairs officials from the three countries will gather with diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and elsewhere Wednesday in Japan to discuss strengthening the nonproliferation regime in Asia.
North Korea's global trade totaled about $10.5 billion in 2014, the Japan External Trade Organization said. Though Japan has no official trade with the North, other countries do, notably China and South Korea as well as Myanmar and Thailand. Many North Korea-bound ships reportedly stop in Vietnamese, Malaysian and other Southeast Asian ports along the way. Japan, the U.S. and South Korea seek closer cooperation with ASEAN in ratcheting up the pressure on the regime in Pyongyang.
The Japanese, U.S. and South Korean diplomats also agreed to press for action from China, the North's primary benefactor. Though the Chinese acknowledge the need for a new sanctions resolution in response to North Korea's nuclear test this month, they fear that squeezing the regime too hard may destabilize it.
In imposing new sanctions, the U.S. and its East Asian allies seek to close any loopholes that might give Pyongyang breathing room.
"Even if China remains passive, the flow of goods into North Korea would be greatly restricted as long as the resolution is implemented to the letter," a Japanese government source said.