S. Korea, US, Japan vow “unprecedentedly strong” response if N. Korea tests nuke

Posted on : 2022-10-27 15:35 KST Modified on : 2022-10-27 15:35 KST
The deputy foreign ministers of the three countries held talks in Tokyo, where they agreed on the need for peace in the Taiwan Strait
Cho Hyun-dong (left), the first vice foreign minister of Korea, stacks hands with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Takeo Mori of Japan in Tokyo on Oct. 26. (AP/Yonhap)
Cho Hyun-dong (left), the first vice foreign minister of Korea, stacks hands with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Takeo Mori of Japan in Tokyo on Oct. 26. (AP/Yonhap)

Senior diplomats from South Korea, the US and Japan agreed during a meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday to make an unprecedently strong response if North Korea goes ahead with a seventh nuclear test. The three countries also mentioned the possibility of security cooperation aimed at maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait.

If the US and Japan ask South Korea for military cooperation in connection with an incident in Taiwan, Korea would confront a harsh choice that might lead to a rupture in relations with China.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with her South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Cho Hyun-dong and Takeo Mori, at the Ikura Guesthouse in Tokyo on Wednesday morning for the 11th session of vice foreign minister-level talks between the three countries.

During the talks, Sherman, Cho and Mori discussed regional issues, including a response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The vice foreign minister-level talks were last held four months ago, in June; the latest session did not result in a joint statement.

“Our three countries have agreed to cooperate as North Korea adopts an aggressive policy on its nuclear arsenal and elevates its threats about using nuclear weapons. Our three countries have decided to make an unprecedently strong response if North Korea eventually pushes ahead with a seventh nuclear test,” Cho said following the meeting.

Mori said the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles represents “a clear and serious challenge to the international community.”

“We agreed to further strengthen the deterrence and the response capabilities of the Japan-US alliance and the US-Korea alliance, as well as to further promote trilateral security cooperation,” the Japanese vice foreign minister added.

Another issue discussed during the talks was the option of broadening the three countries’ security cooperation to include not only the North Korean threat but also the Indo-Pacific region.

“We all agree there needs to be peace in the Taiwan Strait,” Sherman said during the joint press conference, adding that the US will “work with Japan and with the Republic of Korea [South Korea] to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself.”

“We are clearly bound together by common security interests. But we are also connected by our economic ties, by our common values of democracy and freedom, and by our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. There is so much we can achieve and are achieving when our countries work together,” the US official said.

Sherman did not mention exactly how South Korea would cooperate with the US and Japan on behalf of the security of Taiwan. Korea is in a considerably different position from Japan, which could expect a direct military confrontation with China in Okinawa should a crisis occur in Taiwan.

“Cooperation between our three countries is growing even more important for achieving peace and stability in the region and in the international community and for realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Mori, who said it was “most meaningful” that the three diplomats could hold a strategic discussion about common issues including the response to North Korea, China, Ukraine and economic security.

By Kim So-youn, Tokyo correspondent

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