The United States, Japan and 18 other nations on Tuesday urged the world to take action against the evasion of U.N. sanctions on North Korea and stressed the importance of a diplomatic solution to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threat.
In a statement by co-chairs U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, foreign ministers and other officials of the countries said they are "resolved to apply the full range of measures available" to make clear to North Korea that a diplomatic solution leading to its denuclearization is the country's "only viable option."
While the officials agreed on their support for progress in recently resumed dialogue between North and South Korea, they affirmed that "meaningful negotiations cannot be expected unless Pyongyang shows sincere will and concrete actions toward denuclearization."
"All of us share one policy and one goal, and that is the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Tillerson said at the press conference.
Tillerson and Freeland were joined at the gathering by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, and delegates from 16 other countries, mainly those that backed South Korea in the 1950-1953 Korean War, to discuss how to strengthen pressure on North Korea.
China -- North Korea's primary trade partner -- and Russia were not involved in the Vancouver Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula, co-hosted by Canada and the United States. Chinese and Russian officials have criticized the composition of the talks.
According to the statement, the delegates agreed to combat the evasion of a series of U.N. Security Council sanction resolutions adopted last year in response to the North's nuclear and missile testing, and consider imposing further unilateral sanctions.
They agreed to work to ensure illicit ship-to-ship transfers do not continue to allow North Korea to skirt the relevant U.N. sanctions, which include a curtailment of refined petroleum product exports to the North and a ban on moving goods to or from North Korean-flagged vessels at sea.
The officials called on the North to cease all provocations and comply with its international obligations, while recognizing "the importance and special responsibility of China and Russia in contributing to a long-term solution on the Korean Peninsula."
The Vancouver meeting followed direct talks between North and South Korea and the arrangement of North Korea's attendance at next month's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South.
In remarks at the start of the conference, open to the media, Tillerson, Freeland, Kono, Kang and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson each expressed in their own way the opinion that recent signs of improvement in relations between the two Koreas should not prompt a softening of the international sanctions regime.
Kono dismissed the inter-Korean talks as an attempt by Pyongyang to buy time to continue its nuclear and missile development, and warned other countries not to "be blinded by North Korea's charm offensive."
"I am aware that some people argue that now that North Korea is engaging in inter-Korean dialogue, we should reward them by lifting sanctions or providing some sort of assistance. Frankly, I think this view is just too naive," Kono said.
South Korea's Kang acknowledged that despite its "overtures" to improve relations with the South, North Korea has yet to show any intention of fulfilling its international obligations to denuclearize.
"As we endeavor to engage the North before, during, and perhaps beyond Pyeongchang, we do so in clear sight of the denuclearization imperative...the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea remains the unwavering goal of the (South) Korean government," she said.
Joining the five were foreign ministers from Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Turkey, and other officials from Australia, Belgium, Colombia, France, India, Italy, the Philippines, Sweden and Thailand.
North Korea most recently fired a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile in late November, with leader Kim Jong Un subsequently claiming in a New Year's address that the entire U.S. mainland is already within range of its nuclear weapons.
At the press conference, Tillerson refused to comment on recent U.S. media reports suggesting U.S. President Donald Trump may have already communicated directly with Kim.