The United States, Japan and South Korea on Friday shared their concerns about North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and vowed "concerted" efforts toward denuclearization in the first gathering of their security advisers under the new U.S. administration.
The meeting took place as the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is in the final stages of its North Korea policy review, conducted in close consultation with the two key Asian allies.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts Shigeru Kitamura and Suh Hoon affirmed their commitment to address North Korean issues "through concerted trilateral cooperation towards denuclearization," the statement said.
They also agreed on the "imperative for full implementation" of relevant U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions by the international community and cooperating to strengthen deterrence and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, it said.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported that the three agreed that "efforts to resume North Korea-U.S. negotiations at an early date must continue."
Japan, for its part, said it won support from the United States and South Korea for a swift resolution of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals, an issue which Tokyo views as a "top priority."
Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea, whose relations have been increasingly fraught over wartime compensation issues, underscored the importance of their bilateral ties and trilateral cooperation to the security of the region, according to the joint statement.
The Biden administration has been eager to see improved communications between Tokyo and Seoul, saying that a strong working relationship between the two is in the national security interests of the United States.
According to the joint statement, the three countries also discussed "issues of common concern," including security in the Indo-Pacific region, which is facing China's growing assertiveness.
Other topics included the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and the need to promote an immediate return to democracy in Myanmar following the Feb. 1 military coup.
On the sidelines of the trilateral meeting, Sullivan and Kitamura held talks and agreed that they should continue to closely cooperate in the run-up to the meeting between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Washington on April 16.
They also agreed to advance their cooperation with Australia and India, which form a group collectively called the Quad that is seen as a counterweight to China's growing clout.
The talks, which were held in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, were the latest in a series of efforts being made by the Biden administration to move in lockstep with U.S. allies in Asia to deal with various challenges facing the region.
Fleshing out its North Korea policy seems to have become an imminent issue for the Biden administration as Pyongyang has recently resumed ballistic missile tests after a yearlong hiatus.
On March 25, North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning Pyongyang from using ballistic technology.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter, during a press briefing Friday, did not provide any specific timeline as to when the review will be complete.
U.S. administrations have long sought to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions, with Biden's predecessor Donald Trump engaging in unprecedented summit diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
But negotiations made little progress during Trump's four years in the White House that ended on Jan. 20 this year, with the two countries at odds over issues such as the degree of sanctions relief Pyongyang should receive for denuclearization steps.