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Japan, US, S. Korea aim to draw tougher U.N. sanctions on N. Korea

HAMBURG (Kyodo) -- The leaders of Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed Thursday to step up coordination in adopting a new U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution on North Korea in response to its test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday.

    In a meeting in Hamburg, Germany, they pledged to boost pressure on North Korea to curb its weapons programs, as well as to push China -- the main economic and diplomatic benefactor of North Korea -- to rein in its defiant neighbor, according to a senior Japanese official.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae In backed Washington's recent imposition of sanctions on Chinese entities suspected of channeling funds for North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the official told reporters.

    Abe, Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump met on the sidelines of a two-day meeting of the Group of 20 major economies beginning Friday in the northern German city, in the first trilateral summit since Trump and Moon took office in January and May, respectively.

    The three leaders affirmed they will lead efforts to send a strong G-20 message to North Korea with regard to its nuclear ambitions, including the launch of its first ICBM potentially capable of reaching parts of the United States, the Japanese official said.

    Pyongyang's latest provocation represented yet another violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning it from conducting nuclear and missile activities.

    Abe condemned what North Korea said was the successful test-launch of an ICBM, saying such a provocation "shows North Korea has no intention of holding serious dialogue. The international community needs to step up pressure on North Korea."

    "It makes no sense to hold talks for the sake of talks. It is indispensable now to put pressure on North Korea to compel it to have serious dialogue," Abe was quoted as saying by the Japanese official. "Japan, the United States and South Korea will continue to coordinate toward the adoption at the U.N. Security Council of a new resolution including severe measures."

    Asked by a reporter at the trilateral meeting -- part of which was open to the media -- whether he has given up on Chinese President Xi Jinping pressuring North Korea to change its course, Trump said, "Never give up."

    Asked whether he was disappointed by China, Trump did not answer.

    The three leaders held talks as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his regime will never abandon nuclear weapons and will continue to send the United States more "gift packages" of missile and nuclear tests in what he described as self-defense measures.

    North Korea's launch of the ICBM marked a major step forward in its pursuit of a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike as far as the U.S. mainland. Analysts say the flight details suggest the missile is capable of reaching the U.S. state of Alaska, representing a potentially major shift in the security landscape.

    Kim urged officials and scientists to "frequently send big and small 'gift packages' to the Yankees" and said he will push ahead with bolstering the North's nuclear force "unless the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat to the DPRK are definitely terminated," the official Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday.

    DPRK is the acronym of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's formal name.

    In the trilateral summit, the leaders effectively urged China to tighten sanctions on North Korea in addition to the imposition of a coal import ban. They also affirmed the important role Russia plays in efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, according to the Japanese official.

    China accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea's trade and is a major supplier of oil for the country. But in the eyes of Washington, Tokyo and Seoul, as well as many other countries, Beijing has been reluctant to use its influence and economic leverage on Pyongyang to force it to change its behavior.

    Diplomats say China has not been fully enforcing U.N. sanctions on North Korea and has resisted tougher measures such as an oil embargo, bans on North Korean guest workers, and sanctions on Chinese banks and companies doing business with the country.

    In an expression of his frustration about China's dealings with its defiant neighbor, Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, "Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"

    On Wednesday, Trump posted another tweet saying "Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 percent in the first quarter. So much for China working with us -- but we had to give it a try!"

    China apparently has been reluctant to impose strong pressure on North Korea, fearing any instability in the regime could see a wave of refugees flood into northeastern China and result in the loss of a strategic "buffer zone" between it and South Korea, a U.S. ally.

    China instead has called on countries involved to exercise restraint and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through negotiations.

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