US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong last Saturday in Hawaii, discussing threats posed by North Korea and other shared concerns following a series of missile tests.

“But we increasingly recognize that if we’re going to meet the complex challenges of our time – and take full advantage of the opportunities for our people – the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the United States must do more together. We have to learn to do trilaterally what’s become natural to do bilaterally,” said Blinken at the press conference.

As North Korea’s recent testing of its Hwasong-12, an intermediate-range ballistic missile that’s capable of reaching US territories such as Guam destabilizing the region, the three countries discussed how they were going to coordinate to contain North Korea and promote global security. The countries involved also deeply condemned these ballistic missile launches by nuclear-capable North Korea.

In this light, the three countries have pledged to expand their collaboration and cooperation efforts across security and economic efforts regionally and globally. It also called on North Korea to cease its unlawful activities and invited the hermit country into diplomatic dialogues, and that the three countries did not have hostile intent towards Pyongyang and its leader, Kim Jong-Un.

“The Secretary and Foreign Ministers emphasized they held no hostile intent towards the DPRK and underscored continued openness to meeting the DPRK without preconditions,” said the press release.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks at South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, February 12, 2022 (AP via Japan Forward). Source:
Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks at South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-Yong with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, February 12, 2022 (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo/AP via Japan Forward)

Blinken, together with his Japanese and Korean counterparts, all shared their intent to complete the denuclearization of North Korea and pushed for the full implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions relating to the DPRK. The US, South Korea, and Japan have expressed their full commitment to pursuing a peaceful and stable region through international law and hope to have more regular trilateral consultations in the future.

Chung also echoed Blinken’s statements regarding the DPRK and its missile launches, stating that the meeting was timely and constructive. “We welcome the Biden administration’s commitment to the value of alliances and its willingness to proactively engage in the Indo-Pacific and through the strengthening of the ROK-U.S. alliance and trilateral coordination among Korea, the US, and Japan. We are determined to continue working in concert,” said the Korean Foreign Minister.

North Korean Missile Tests Are A Reminder

Many political observers see that the recent North Korean missile tests were not just a provocation but also a reminder to the West that the North was still highly capable of defending itself. Others have seen it as an attempt to pressure the United States to ease the economic sanctions on the DPRK, which had further crippled the already weak economy.

These tests have halted for now as their close ally, China, has been hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing supposedly as a sign of respect as the two share close economic ties. However, the tests are predicted to resume once the Olympics is done.

However, North Korea was not the only country the trio had discussed.

The report also states their collective and unified stance toward the Russian aggression along its border with Ukraine, stating that they “shared unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They committed to work closely together to deter further Russian escalation,” Russian aggression that seems to be possibly dying down due to its troop withdrawal yesterday as some military exercises had finished.

The Myanmar crisis had also been discussed by the group and the issues with Chinese aggression in the Taiwan Strait. They jointly called for China’s compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to pursue peace and stability in the region. However, China is unlikely to comply with these demands as they have already increased their naval and air presence in the region.

As the meeting ended, so did Blinken’s Asian tour, which had started in Australia, to meet with members of the Quad, which comprises Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. Prior to landing in Honolulu, he had visited Fiji, the first time a US Secretary of State had visited Fiji since 1985, to discuss risks posed by climate change with Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.