February 17, 2017 12:10 pm JST

Tillerson takes initiative for statement condemning North Korea

Recent missile firing brings together US, Japan and South Korea

NAOYA YOSHINO, Nikkei staff writer

BONN, Germany -- The foreign ministers of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea issued a joint statement on Thursday condemning North Korea's latest test-firing of a ballistic missile. New U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the initiative in preparing the statement. 

The document, which referred to the notion of "extended deterrence" involving both nuclear and conventional defense capabilities, was issued after Tillerson, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se met on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 major economies in the German city of Bonn to discuss North Korea's launch of a missile on Sunday.

Tillerson demonstrated the U.S. administration's continued commitment to the peace and security of Northeast Asia. He also evidently wanted to eliminate concerns about Washington's possible inclination toward isolation under President Donald Trump's "America First" policy.

Extended deterrence refers to the ability of the U.S. military forces, particularly nuclear forces, to deter attacks on U.S. allies through the use of nuclear weapons, including the dispatch of strategic bombers capable of carrying them as well as nuclear submarines.

The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama took a stance of strategic tolerance designed to isolate North Korea before Pyongyang committed to denuclearization. But the policy ended in failure because North Korea has further developed its nuclear and missile programs.

Circumstances surrounding North Korea have become chaotic, as evidenced by the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of the closed and reclusive country. 

The Trump administration has begun considering a regime change in North Korea as an option. Specifically, it favors one led by China, which has continued to support North Korea. 

Tillerson will meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday, possibly to seek cooperation from China in dealing with North Korea, while also affirming the Trump administration's stance respecting the so-called One China policy.

If China refuses to cooperate with the U.S. on the North Korean issue, the Trump administration is considering retaliation on China's exchange rate policy and trade. 

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