This week in Honolulu, the national security advisers from the three nations gathered to consider a coordinated response to the rising North Korean threat.
Kim Sung-han, the national security adviser for Seoul, met with his Japanese and American colleagues on Thursday in the Honolulu, Hawaii, headquarters of the US Indo-Pacific Command. Since South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May, this is the first time the security chiefs from the three countries have met in person.
The trilateral and bilateral security chiefs talks were conducted in response to the escalating nuclear and missile threat from North Korea in order to reiterate the combined and coordinated response.
After the trilateral summit on Thursday, Kim declared, “The corresponding action will be radically different if North Korea conducts its seventh nuclear test.”
Additionally, Kim noted that his counterparts, Jake Sullivan and Takeo Akiba, have agreed to take the North Korean nuclear test seriously.
Kim stressed that “the trilateral cooperation of the U.S., South Korea, and Japan would be maximised, with the coordination with the international community, to make North Korea realise that it was a wrong decision” if it conducted the nuclear test, while reiterating Seoul’s hawkish stance on the North’s nuclear and missile threats.
Kim also stated to reporters that the three security officials specifically addressed the appropriate reaction to a potential seventh nuclear test but would not provide any specifics.
Yoon openly made a dovish approach to North Korea last month with his “audacious plan,” a financial incentive for Pyongyang to denuclearize. Yoon has started a two-pronged effort to get North Korean leader Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table, in contrast to his prior hardline comments, including a preemptive attack option against the North, which he made during the presidential campaign. Kim claimed that Sullivan and Akiba responded favourably to Seoul’s new strategy for destroying North Korea’s nuclear arsenals and denuclearizing the peninsula and that they decided to work closely together to persuade Pyongyang to accept Seoul’s offer. Yoon’s “audacious endeavour” is not going to produce results any time soon, though.
Days after Yoon submitted his idea, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of Kim Jong Un and the leading voice on inter-Korean ties, released a statement. She spoke outspokenly against it in provocative North Korean fashion.
In the statement, Kim Yo Jong referred to Yoon as a “knave,” denounced Seoul’s efforts to denuclearize North Korea, and made it plain that there would be no conversation or collaboration with the Yoon government. She said that Yoon’s ambitious attempt is a replica of the “Opening and 3000” strategy from the previous Lee Myung-bak government, which had failed to stop the North’s nuclear and missile development. Experts had previously predicted that Yoon’s strategy on North Korea would be an updated version of Lee’s since significant policy advisers for the Yoon administration had served in the Lee administration.
Seoul voiced sadness at Kim Yo Jong’s remark because it and the U.S., an ally, are still looking for a way to restart the broken nuclear negotiations. The lengthy joint military drills between the United States and South Korea, which Pyongyang accuses of being part of the two countries’ “hostile policies,” were officially over on Thursday. It’s possible that North Korea is now prepared to display its highly developed ballistic missile programmes, including intercontinental and submarine-launched missiles.
Kim Jong Un may conduct the test whenever he pleases, according to officials in Seoul and Washington who have stated time and time again that Pyongyang is in the last stages of preparing for a seventh nuclear test. The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is one of China’s most significant events this year, so Pyongyang may decide against acting provocatively and jeopardising Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s historic moment on October 16.