North Korea in ‘phase of provocation,’ US says after Asian allies meeting
North Korea is “in a phase of provocation,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared during a news conference after a meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Hawaii on Saturday. The two Asian nations apparently agreed with that judgment, though not revealing details of their next steps, as Blinken added that “we are absolutely united in our approach, in our determination.”
The nations jointly released a statement demanding Pyongyang engage in “dialogue” and cease its “unlawful activities.” The country began the year with several missile tests, triggering condemnation from the three countries who met to “very closely consult” on future steps toward engaging with North Korea. Japanese FM Yoshimasa Hayashi told local media the discussion had been “very fruitful,” even as he declined to offer up further details.
Last month South Korean President Moon Jae-in denounced the DPRK's tests as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, urging his country's northern neighbor to end “actions that create tensions and pressure.”
While the North has put a pause on missile launches during the Beijing Winter Olympics, its neighbors - and those watching from Washington - expect a resumption in missile launches once the games are over. Of particular concern is the recent test of a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile believed to be capable of reaching the US territory of Guam.
Pyongyang has rejected US efforts to resume diplomacy under President Joe Biden, vowing not to return to talks unless Washington starts by rolling back some of the sanctions and other hostile policies that are keeping North Koreans isolated and undersupplied. While Biden's predecessor Donald Trump made a point of courting the leader of the Hermit Kingdom in the hope of reaching a meaningful agreement, the Panmunjom Declaration signed by North and South in 2018 was just one step on a long road to making peace with the country an earlier US president insisted on referring to as part of an “axis of evil.”
The talks around North Korea effectively stalled after the 2019 no-deal summit between then-US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam. North Korea says it is no longer bound by an earlier self-imposed moratorium on missile tests, since its talks with the West broke down.