Japan, U.S., S. Korea call for N. Korean action toward denuclearization

Japan, the United States and South Korea on Monday reiterated their call for North Korea to take credible steps toward denuclearization, and agreed to strengthen cooperation with China and Russia in ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.

"We reaffirmed that we will strongly demand North Korea take concrete and meaningful actions to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula," Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se in Brunei.

"We will not hold talks (with North Korea) for the sake of talks," Kishida said.

After months of tensions sparked by North Korea's rocket launch in December, widely seen as a ballistic missile test, and its third nuclear test in February, both in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, Pyongyang has expressed its readiness in recent weeks to return to the six-party talks and has proposed bilateral talks with the United States to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The three ministers affirmed North Korea can improve relations with the three countries if it takes concrete and meaningful steps toward denuclearization.

Specifically, they urged North Korea to honor its commitments under a Sept. 19, 2005, joint statement of the six-party talks, particularly its core goal of verifiable denuclearization.

They also prodded North Korea to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions, and vowed to strengthen cooperation with the international community to ensure full and transparent implementation of the resolutions.

Involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, the Beijing-hosted negotiations aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions have been stalled since December 2008.

Speaking to journalists after the trilateral talks and a bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Kerry said the four countries are "absolutely united" in their endeavor to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear arsenal to ensure peace and stability in the region.

"All four of us are absolutely united and absolutely firm in our insistence that the future with respect to North Korea must include denuclearization," Kerry said.

"China made it clear to me they have made very firm statements and very firm steps that they have taken with respect to the implementation of that policy," he said.

In a show of frustration with North Korea for pushing ahead with the nuclear test in February, China -- the main economic and diplomatic benefactor of Pyongyang -- imposed financial sanctions on the country, suspending business between the Bank of China, China's largest foreign exchange bank, and Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea's main foreign exchange bank.

At the trilateral meeting, Japan won continued support from Washington and Seoul for its efforts to address North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, according to Kishida.

Kishida, Kerry and Yun met on the sidelines of a series of gatherings involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its dialogue partners.

On Tuesday, North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun will attend the ASEAN Regional Forum, a 27-member regional security meeting, at which the North Korean nuclear issue and territorial disputes in the South China Sea involving China and some Southeast Asian countries are likely to top the agenda.