Senior diplomats from Japan, US, S.Korea condemn N.Korea, confirm cooperation

Senior diplomats from Japan, the United States and South Korea have condemned the repeated ballistic missile launches by North Korea and agreed to strengthen trilateral security cooperation.

Japan's Vice Foreign Minister Mori Takeo, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and South Korea's First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Hyun-dong met in Seoul on Wednesday. It was their first in-person meeting since November.

A joint statement released after the talks says the officials "strongly condemned" North Korea and urged the country to immediately cease actions that endanger global peace and security.

Officials in Washington are warning that North Korea could conduct its seventh nuclear test at any time.

The statement also says Sherman reaffirmed Washington's "steadfast commitments" to the defense of Japan and South Korea, including extended deterrence.

The officials urged Pyongyang to return to negotiations, stressing that "a path to serious and sustained dialogue remains open."

The statement also says the officials discussed a range of pressing regional and global issues, including joint efforts to support Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, and to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Mori told reporters after the meeting that the officials agreed to work more closely for stronger deterrence in the region and for diplomatic efforts at the UN to achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

Sherman said the US, South Korea and Japan are fully and closely aligned on North Korea. She urged Pyongyang to cease provocative actions and commit to the path of diplomacy.

Cho said the officials discussed the possibility of further provocations by North Korea, including another nuclear test. He said the North's nuclear and missile threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated.