SEOUL -- Japan, the U.S. and South Korea agreed Tuesday to ramp up pressure on North Korea and to impose even harsher sanctions on the reclusive state -- seen on its way to a fifth nuclear test -- if it makes further provocations.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam met in Seoul, building on the countries' trilateral summit in Washington at the end of March.
The allies slammed North Korea at the meeting for continued provocations against the international community, even after the United Nations Security Council decided in March to impose tougher economic penalties on the country.
Lim warned that North Korea will face even more powerful international sanctions and deeper isolation if it instigates other nations again. Seoul seems to be maintaining a tough stance on Pyongyang even after the South's ruling Saenuri Party suffered a crushing electoral loss last Wednesday.
But Japan and South Korea expressed different levels of interest over signing a bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement, which would allow them to share intelligence on such topics as North Korea.
"The three countries agreed to strengthen our partnership in various fields against the North Korean threat," Saiki said in a later joint news conference. But Lim said the countries mostly focused on the North's nuclear threat at the meeting.
The three officials also discussed China's maritime expansion and military build-up in the South China Sea.