US Vice President Kamala Harris and leaders from Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada pledged pressure on North Korea as they held urgent talks on Friday over Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
Hours after North Korea launched the missile, which Japan said landed in its waters but was able to hit the US mainland, Harris met leaders of close US partners on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Summit in Bangkok.
“We strongly condemn these actions and again call on North Korea to stop further illegal and destabilizing actions,” Harris told reporters at the start of the talks.
“On behalf of the United States, I reaffirm our firm commitment to our Indo-Pacific alliances,” she said, using another term for the Asia-Pacific region.
The launch comes after weeks of escalating tensions with North Korea, which US intelligence believes is preparing for a seventh nuclear test.
A White House statement on the Bangkok talks said the six leaders also warned of a “strong and firm response” if North Korea – officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – carried out the nuclear test.
The statement said the leaders agreed that “the path of dialogue remains open for the DPRK, and called on the DPRK to abandon unnecessary provocations and return to serious and persistent diplomacy.”
In a veiled reference to China, the isolated and impoverished country’s main backer, the statement called on all UN members to “fully implement” Security Council resolutions that imposed sweeping sanctions on North Korea.
Also read: Xi and Kishida meet as North Korea launches a missile
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the leaders also wanted an emergency session of the UN Security Council – as China and Russia vetoed in May a US-led attempt to tighten sanctions on North Korea.
“This is about the world coming together to condemn North Korea’s actions and stand up for peace and security in our region,” Albanese told Australian reporters.
But Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, speaking at the meeting, acknowledged concerns that North Korea was ignoring the pressure.
“There is a possibility that North Korea will launch more missiles,” Kishida said.
South Korean Prime Minister Han Duk-soo said the “brazen” missile launch should “not be tolerated”.
“The international community must respond in a resolute manner,” Han said.
– increased pressure –
This is the latest meeting on North Korea after US President Joe Biden met Sunday with Kishida and South Korean President Yun Sok Yul on the sidelines of the Southeast Asia Summit in Cambodia.
They issued a similar warning against a nuclear test – prompting North Korea to denounce the trilateral meeting as evidence of American hostility.
Friday’s meeting showed the allies, who added three more countries to their common front, were not backing down.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the launch “reckless”.
“This is completely unacceptable and must not continue,” Trudeau told reporters.
He said Canada plans to boost its military involvement in Asia as part of an upcoming regional strategy.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised her country’s “continued response and strength of response,” saying she understood the “concern” of Japan and South Korea.
Despite the pressure campaign, the Biden administration believes that ultimately China is the country with the greatest opportunity to pressure North Korea.
Also read: North Korea fires more than 20 missiles, one of which is close to the South
On Monday, Biden met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali and expressed confidence that Beijing “is not looking for North Korea to engage in further escalation.”
Harris is taking part in an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting after Biden came home to his granddaughter’s wedding.
Biden offered to start a working-level dialogue with North Korea, but saw no interest from Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held three televised meetings with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, successfully de-escalating tensions but not reaching a lasting agreement.
The United States says it will never recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, while most experts believe Pyongyang will never give up its arsenal.