The United States, South Korea and Japan have jointly condemned the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea, pledging to work with the international community to tighten sanctions against Pyongyang.
In a joint statement on Friday, the three allies said they would push to block North Korea’s “illicit revenue generation through overseas workers and malicious cyber activities” that they said the country uses to fund its weapons programmes.
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“The United States reiterated that its commitments to defend the ROK [South Korea] and Japan are ironclad and backed by the full range of capabilities, including nuclear,” the statement said, referring to South Korea by its official name.
Earlier on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Japanese and South Korean counterparts on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Indonesia.
North Korea – formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – fired the ICBM on Wednesday, and it landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
It was the first such launch in three months, following heightened tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.
Two days earlier, North Korea slammed a US plan to deploy nuclear submarines near the Korean Peninsula, warning that the move could “incite the worst crisis of nuclear conflict in practice”.
On Thursday, North Korea’s United Nations ambassador, Kim Song, told the UN Security Council that the ICBM launch aimed “to deter dangerous military moves of hostile forces and safeguard the security” of the country.
In Friday’s statement, the US, South Korea and Japan denounced the North Korean launch as dangerous.
“This constitutes a clear, flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and poses a grave threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and beyond,” the three countries said.
“The DPRK’s launch of this ICBM threatened the safety of civil aviation and maritime traffic in the region.”
North Korea has been escalating its missile testing over the past two years.
Former US President Donald Trump engaged in direct talks with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un during his tenure, but high-level meetings between the two countries came to a halt under the current US president, Joe Biden.
After the first meeting between Trump and Kim in 2018, the nations said in a joint statement that North Korea was committed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”.
But the pledge was never followed by efforts to end the country’s nuclear weapons programme.
North Korea carried out its first nuclear weapon test in 2006 in violation of an international ban on such testing. Since then, the UN Security Council has unanimously passed numerous resolutions that imposed sanctions on the country over its nuclear programme.
Last year, Russia and China vetoed a Security Council proposal to impose more penalties on North Korea, arguing that sanctions have not been effective in curbing the country’s nuclear and missile programmes.