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Japanese, US and South Korean officials condemn the North’s weapons plans but urge dialogue

TOKYO (AP) — Senior officials from Japan, the US and South Korea condemned North Korea for its recent ICBM-class ballistic missile launches and pledged to step up their trilateral cooperation to strengthen deterrence and sanctions against the north, while stressing the need for dialogue with Pyongyang.

Their meeting Thursday in the central Japanese city of Karuizawa comes days after North Korea’s solid fuel ICBM launch last week, which landed in water off the west coast of Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido, and a day after the launch of two missiles on Wednesday.

US Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim also said the United States was “working hard” to gather information about a US soldier who fled north earlier this month. The US tried to ensure his safety and send him back home, Kim said.

Private 2nd Class Travis King, 23, was detained in South Korea on assault charges and was released on July 10 after serving his time. He was taken to the airport on Monday but did not board his flight home. Instead, he took part in a tourist trip to the border and fled to the North Korean side.

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Kim said he and his Japanese counterpart, Takehiro Funakoshi, director general of the Bureau of Asian and Oceanic Affairs at the State Department, and South Korea’s Kim Gunn, Special Representative for Peace and Security Affairs on the Korean Peninsula, would also discuss their leaders’ planned summit in the United States for next month.

In his opening remarks, Japan’s Funakoshi said Tokyo wants to further strengthen triple security cooperation to increase deterrence and impose sanctions against the North for its missile progress, in violation of United Naitons Security Council resolutions. However, he also stressed the need for dialogue with the North.

He reiterated that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “without preconditions” to resolve the decades-old issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals.

Sung Kim said the United States had “no hostile intent” and that “we are ready and willing to sit down at the negotiating table to resolve our differences.”

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South Korea’s Kim said the three officials would reaffirm their intention for dialogue with North Korea as they discussed ways to “enhance close communications to put North Korea back on the road to denuclearization and encourage China’s constructive role.”

He noted the beginning of this week’s launch of a nuclear talk between Seoul and Washington, saying North Korea was “undermining its own security” while its attempt to intimidate the two allies only enhanced their cooperation on nuclear deterrence.

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