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International relations

Japan, U.S., South Korea pledge cooperation to keep North in check

Partners will work to denuclearize Korean Peninsula, limit Pyongyang's missiles

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, meets with Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, far left, and South Korea's Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong in New York on Sept. 22.   © AP

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Wednesday he and his counterparts from the United States and South Korea agreed to further strengthen cooperation to rid North Korea of its nuclear and missile program.

During talks in New York held on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly sessions, the three pledged to work closely toward complete denuclearization of North Korea by boosting diplomatic efforts, ensuring the implementation of U.N. resolutions barring Pyongyang from developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, and enhancing deterrence in the region.

The trilateral meeting between Motegi, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui Yong comes after North Korea test-fired two ballistic missiles that fell within Japan's exclusive economic zone on Sept. 15.

Calling the ministerial meeting a "very timely opportunity of exchanging views," Motegi told reporters, "I said North Korean nuclear and missile activities, including recent missile launches, pose a threat to Japan, the region and the international community and we shared the view."

Blinken also "reaffirmed the United States' commitment to continued consultation and cooperation" with Japan and South Korea in working toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

The three last met in person in May on the sidelines of the Group of Seven foreign ministerial meeting in London, which South Korea attended as a guest.

They also discussed other regional and global issues such as Myanmar, China and climate change, and agreed to deepen cooperation on these areas as well, Motegi said.

The discussion also covered issues such as securing supply chains, said the State Department spokesperson.

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden has been emphasizing the importance of cooperation between the three nations despite the strained relationship between Japan and South Korea over wartime history and other disputes.

Ahead of the trilateral session, Motegi and Blinken also held bilateral talks and agreed to deepen the alliance further toward the goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific region through working with allies and like-minded countries.

Motegi asked the United States to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Washington withdrew from the TPP in January 2017 under the administration of previous President Donald Trump, who criticized the deal as a "job-killing" arrangement.

Biden remains cautious about returning to the treaty. Recently, China and Taiwan applied to join the 11-member regional framework.

Motegi and Blinken also reaffirmed close bilateral coordination to resolve the past abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea, while discussing regional issues such as China and Afghanistan, the Japanese minister said.

Blinken later tweeted he had "excellent conversation" with Motegi and the United States and Japan are "working together to promote peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and across the globe."

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