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S. Korea, US, Japan agree to step up pressure on North Korea

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President Yoon Suk-yeol, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wait for the beginning of their trilateral summit on the sidelines of the 2022 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit at Ifema Convention Center in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday. Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wait for the beginning of their trilateral summit on the sidelines of the 2022 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit at Ifema Convention Center in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday. Yonhap

By Nam Hyun-woo

MADRID ― The leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan agreed on Wednesday to step up pressure on North Korea, whose nuclear and missile programs have posed a growing threat to international security.

They shared the need for close consultation in trilateral security cooperation and strengthening the U.S.' extended deterrence for its allies. Extended deterrence refers to Washington's commitment to provide its nuclear capabilities to defend its allies.

The three countries agreed on the need for three-way cooperation during a trilateral summit between President Yoon Suk-yeol, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the 2022 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday (local time).

The last trilateral summit was held in New York in September of 2017.

"With North Korea's nuclear missile threat escalating and uncertainties growing, the importance of trilateral cooperation between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan has been increasing," Yoon said during the summit. "The summit shows the three countries' commitment to intensify trilateral cooperation to solve regional and global problems."

Biden said trilateral cooperation is very important to achieve their shared goals, including the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a free and open Indo-Pacific. He said concerns remain over North Korea resuming its nuclear weapons test.

Kishida also noted that the trilateral cooperation and stronger U.S. extended deterrence are essential as chances increase of additional North Korean provocations. The Japanese prime minister added that the three countries will jointly respond to North Korea's nuclear test through measures including a joint military exercise, adding that Japan wants to enhance its defense capability to strengthen the deterrence of the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

The presidential office said in a statement that the leaders agreed that a growing threat from North Korea not only endangered the Korean Peninsula, but also East Asia and the entire world.

The trilateral summit took place following a policy shift in South Korea toward North Korea after Yoon was inaugurated on May 10. Departing from the previous Moon Jae-in administration's conciliatory stance toward the North, the Yoon government pledged to take a more quid-pro-quo approach toward the belligerent regime.

"During the summit, President Yoon maintained the stance that North Korea's nuclear ambitions are a common threat for South Korea, the U.S. and Japan," an official at the presidential office told reporters.

To strengthen trilateral cooperation, the South Korean leader also seeks to improve Seoul-Tokyo relations.

President Yoon Suk-yeol answers questions from the press as he enters the Ifema Congress Center in Madrid, Spain, to attend the 2022 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit, Wednesday. Joint Press Corps
President Yoon Suk-yeol answers questions from the press as he enters the Ifema Congress Center in Madrid, Spain, to attend the 2022 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit, Wednesday. Joint Press Corps

During a gala dinner at the NATO Summit, Tuesday, Yoon had a brief conversation with the Japanese prime minister and expressed his hopes for future-oriented developments in bilateral relations.

"After Japan's upcoming upper house elections, I and my aides plan to resolve issues that stand in the way of improving Seoul-Tokyo ties as soon as possible to establish future-oriented bilateral relations," Yoon was quoted by the presidential office as saying to Kishida.

The presidential office said Kishida appreciated Yoon's words and added that the Japanese leader is aware of the fact that the South Korean president is making efforts to improve bilateral ties and that he, too, hopes for healthier relations between the two countries.

President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a four-way meeting between the leaders of South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand on the sidelines of the 2022 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday (local time). Clockwise from top left are Yoon, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a four-way meeting between the leaders of South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand on the sidelines of the 2022 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday (local time). Clockwise from top left are Yoon, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Yonhap

Their exchange of cordial remarks continued in a four-way meeting between NATO's Asia-Pacific partner countries ― South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand ― on Wednesday. During the meeting, the four leaders acknowledged that the four-way summit is timely and meaningful as they share values and vision for the region.

Kishida said any action to change the status quo by force is unacceptable, noting that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is one such incident that broke the rules and challenged international order. The Japanese leader said he would like to discuss Indo-Pacific issues with the three other leaders and look for ways to work together. Yoon nodded in agreement as the Japanese leader spoke.

Yoon told reporters after the four-way talks that he is "convinced that Prime Minister Kishida is a partner who can together resolve pending issues between South Korea and Japan."

President Yoon Suk-yeol shakes hands with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during their summit at a hotel in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday (local time). Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol shakes hands with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during their summit at a hotel in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday (local time). Yonhap

Cooperation in nuclear power

On the sidelines of the NATO Summit, Yoon pitched South Korea's industrial capabilities to leaders attending the event, as part of his efforts to strengthen economic partnerships with European nations.

During a summit between Yoon and Polish President Andrzej Duda, the leaders agreed to explore ways to collaborate in the fields of nuclear energy and liquefied natural gas carriers. Yoon encouraged Duda to pay more attention to some 300 South Korean companies, expressing hope that the two countries will work closely in Poland's new airport construction project.

Poland plans to build a nuclear reactor by 2024, and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power submitted a bid for the project in April.

At a summit with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Yoon said investments from Dutch companies, such as semiconductor equipment maker ASML, will contribute to the stability of the supply chain, and asked those companies to maintain a steady supply of chip-making equipment to South Korean companies.

Yoon invited Rutte to visit Seoul. And in response, Rutte delivered Dutch King Willem-Alexander's invitation for Yoon's state visit to the Netherlands next year. Yoon accepted the invitation.



Nam Hyun-woo namhw@koreatimes.co.kr


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