Officials from the United States, South Korea and Japan have met in Seoul for talks on North Korea amid signs the country is preparing to conduct a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.
The United States is “preparing for all contingencies” in close coordination with its South Korean and Japanese allies as it monitors Pyongyang's arrangements for a possible nuclear test.
US Special Representative Sung Kim met his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Kim Gunn and Funakoshi Takehiro, in Seoul on Friday.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of a US assessment that North Korea was preparing its Punggye-ri test site for what would be its first nuclear test since 2017 and the seventh overall.
"We are preparing for all contingencies in close coordination with our Japanese and ROK allies," Kim said, referring to South Korea by the initials of its official name, the Republic of Korea.
This year, North Korea has tested several ballistic missiles, including one thought to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile, in violation of UN sanctions.
"We want to make clear to the DPRK that it's unlawful and destabilising activities have consequences and that the international community will not accept these actions as normal," the US envoy said, referring to North Korea.
'Strengthening our deterrence'
South Korea' s newly appointed nuclear envoy, Kim Gunn, said North Korea's "relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons will only end up strengthening our deterrence".
"The course that Pyongyang is currently embarking on has only one inevitable destination: reduce security for North Korea itself," the South Korean diplomat said.
Last week, the United States called for more UN sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile launches, but China and Russia vetoed the suggestion.
Their move publicly split the UN Security Council on North Korea for the first time since it started punishing it in 2006, when Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test.
Japan's Funakoshi stressed the need for coordination, vowing to "enhance regional deterrence, including trilateral security cooperation".
The officials said the door for dialogue was open and expressed concern over the Covid-19 situation in North Korea.
Earlier, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said the United States would not link humanitarian aid for North Korea as it battles Covid to denuclearisation.
Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since 2019 over disagreements in exchanging the release of crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea and the North’s disarmament steps.