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International relations

Japan warns on falling for North Korean charm offensive

Tokyo calls for maintaining pressure on Kim Jong Un's regime at Canada meeting

From left, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono attend a meeting on Korean security Tuesday in Vancouver, Canada.   © Reuters

VANCOUVER, Canada -- As top diplomats from 20 countries met here Tuesday to discuss the North Korea crisis, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono pushed for continued pressure on Pyongyang, arguing that it is trying to buy time with recent dialogue.

The meeting on Korean Peninsula security co-hosted by the U.S. and Canada was also attended by American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The two Koreas recently held formal bilateral talks for the first time in more than two years, using the opening offered by next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea. Kono called the North's newfound receptiveness to dialogue an attempt to gain time for weapons development, asserting that the country's relentless pursuit of its nuclear and missile programs must not be ignored.

The Japanese foreign minister warned against being swayed by North Korea's charm offensive. The international community should unite behind the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he said.

Officials attending a welcome dinner Monday evening agreed on the importance of military cooperation to heighten pressure on North Korea, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry. Kono stressed that dialogue with the North for the sake of dialogue is meaningless, citing its failure to abide by past nuclear deals.

Some countries participating in the ministerial meeting here, such as European and Southeast Asian nations, lie farther from North Korea and feel the threat less keenly. They may be more likely to press for dialogue as a means of resolving the standoff.

The U.S., meanwhile, called on nations to crack down on ships supplying North Korea with oil via transfers in international waters, taking advantage of a loophole in sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. After a North Korean missile test in November, Tillerson issued a statement urging the international community to "enhance maritime security, including the right to interdict maritime traffic transporting goods to and from" North Korea.

China and Russia, which have close economic ties to the North, are believed by some to be involved in the oil shipments. Neither participated in Tuesday's meeting, raising questions about its effectiveness.

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