By Chie Morifuji / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterBONN — The foreign ministers of Japan, the United States and South Korea condemned in a joint statement on Thursday “in the strongest terms” North Korea’s test-launch of a ballistic missile Sunday, reaffirming trilateral security cooperation.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his counterparts U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se held talks Thursday on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting.
They also exchanged opinions regarding the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
It was the first foreign minister meeting among the three countries since September, and the first since Donald Trump became U.S. president.
The meeting was called by the United States in response to the test-firing of a ballistic missile by North Korea, and lasted for about 30 minutes, mostly discussing North Korea.
Tillerson said in the joint statement that “the United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to its allies ... including the commitment to provide extended deterrence,” backed by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
As was the case in the administration of former President Barack Obama, the Trump administration clarified its stance on North Korean issues to place importance on the alliances with Japan and South Korea.
During the talks, the three ministers agreed to urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions, to abandon nuclear and ballistic missile programs and to comply with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
They also agreed that their representatives on North Korea policy will hold consultations in the coming days and affirmed the importance of an early resolution of the abduction issue, which were specified in the joint statement.
The three ministers discussed Kim Jong Nam’s murder. However, Kishida said to the media after the talks that he would refrain from sharing details.
Relations between Japan and South Korea have deteriorated since a statue of a girl symbolizing comfort women was erected in Busan, South Korea, at the end of last year. Japan temporarily pulled back its envoys including Ambassador to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine, deepening U.S. concerns.
According to Kishida, however, a deal concluded between Japan and South Korea in December 2015 over the comfort women issue was not discussed during the trilateral talks.