US: We we will work in ‘lockstep’ with Japan, S Korea on N Korea

US State Department says approach to North Korea will have to be done in concert with close allies.

In the wake of last week's North Korean ballistic missile tests, the US State Department says 'denuclearisation will remain at the centre of American policy towards North Korea', even as President Joe Biden does not intend to meet with Kim Jong Un [File: KCNA via Reuters]

Denuclearisation will remain at the centre of United States policy towards North Korea and any approach to Pyongyang will have to be done in “lockstep” with close allies, including Japan and South Korea, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday.

Price made the comments at a regular media briefing in Washington ahead of a scheduled meeting between President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his counterparts from Japan and South Korea.

Price said the meeting would be an opportunity to share where the Biden administration is in its review of US policy towards North Korea and for the representatives of Japan and South Korea to share their perspectives.

“I wouldn’t want to prejudge the conclusion of any ongoing review, but we have said that denuclearisation will remain at the centre of American policy towards North Korea,” Price said.

“We also know that any approach to North Korea, in order to be effective, will be one that we will have to execute in lockstep with our close allies, including in this case, our treaty allies, Japan and South Korea,” he said.

Sullivan is to meet his Japanese counterpart Shigeru Kitamura and South Korea counterpart Suh Hoon at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis on April 2.

The Biden administration has been simultaneously signaling a hard line on human rights, denuclearisation and sanctions in its North Korea policy, while making diplomatic overtures that administration officials say have been rebuffed by Pyongyang.

Biden said on Thursday the United States remained open to diplomacy with North Korea despite its ballistic missile tests last week, but warned there would be responses if North Korea escalates matters.

Biden does not intend to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the White House said on Monday.

Former President Donald Trump met with Kim three times but failed to persuade him to give up his nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang said the Biden administration had taken a wrong first step and revealed “deep-seated hostility” by criticising what it called a self-defensive missile test.

Source: Reuters