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US, Japan, S. Korea Explore Limits to N. Korea’s Arms

FILE - South Korea's Special Representative Kim Hong-kyun, U.S. State Department's Special Representative Joseph Yun and Japanese Director-General Kenji Kanasugi pose for a photo after their meeting at the US State Department on Feb. 27, 2017.
US, Japan, South Korea Explore Ways to Limit North Korea's Arms Program
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The United States is increasing pressure on North Korea to cut back on its nuclear activities.

The U.S. government also wants to build ties with allies and partners in East Asia to deal with the rising threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea.

This week, the State Department released a statement on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It said the programs directly threaten the security of South Korea, Japan and the United States.

South Korean, Japanese and U.S. officials met in Washington on Monday to discuss ways to restrict the money North Korea spends on weapons development.

The three said they “explored a joint way forward toward the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.”

Joseph Yun is the State Department’s Special Representative for North Korea Policy. He led the meeting with Japanese and South Korean officials.

The discussions followed an earlier foreign ministerial meeting in the German city of Bonn. They were at least partly a reaction to North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch on February 12.

A view of the test-fire of a Pukguksong-2 missile, Feb. 13, 2017.
A view of the test-fire of a Pukguksong-2 missile, Feb. 13, 2017.

The State Department noted: “The officials considered other possible measures under national authorities, including means to restrict further the revenue sources for North Korea’s weapons programs, particularly illicit activities.”

Stephen Noerper is a professor at Columbia University and serves as a director of the Korea Society. He says “human rights and financial measures” are two issues that have had the greatest effect on North Korea.

In the past, U.S. officials have threatened to send reports of human rights abuses by the government of Kim Jong Un to the International Criminal Court. The U.S. government also has taken steps to restrict the finances of North Korean individuals and groups.

Anthony Ruggiero is with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a research center in Washington. He told VOA that the U.S. Japan and South Korea should decide on new action against North Korea. He said the three should target North Korea’s provocative activities.

Ruggiero also said cooperation with China was important.

“Beijing should at least be part of the focus of renewed North Korea sanctions,” he said.

Stephen Noerper, however, notes that some Chinese officials have blamed U.S. actions for recent efforts by North Korea to expand its missile program.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson greets Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi at the State Department in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson greets Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi at the State Department in Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Tuesday. The two discussed what they called, the “mutually beneficial economic relationship” between the U.S. and China. But they also noted concerns about North Korean nuclear activities.

On Monday, Yang spoke briefly with U.S. President Donald Trump after he met with Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Yang also met with Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The United States, China, Japan and South Korea are all members of what diplomats call the six party talks. The two other members are North Korea and Russia.

The six party talks have been held at different times since 2003. The goal was to expand economic aid, security guarantees and diplomatic ties with North Korea in exchange for the North suspending its nuclear weapons program.

However, all six countries have not held talks since North Korea tested a nuclear device in 2009. That was one of five nuclear tests the country has carried out.

Some former U.S. officials say it is time to deal with North Korea in a different way. They say direct engagement with the North could help develop ways to avoid a possible conflict that is in no one’s interest.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Nike Ching and Victor Beattie reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for Learning English with additional material from Reuters and AP. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

ballistic missile – n. a missile that can travel long distances to strike a target

verifiable – adj. able to be proved true or made known

authorities – n. the power to give an order or do something

revenue – n. money that is earned through business activity

illicit – adj. not allowed, not lawful

provocative – adj. meant to cause a response or argument

mutually beneficial – adj. helping both sides equally

engagement – n. the act of being involved with someone or something