China, Japan and South Korea have denounced North Korea’s latest missile test, calling on Pyongyang to refrain from “provocative” actions that could deteriorate the situation on the already-tense Korean Peninsula.
Foreign ministers of the three countries made the remarks at the end of an annual trilateral meeting held in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, on Wednesday, hours after Pyongyang successfully test-fired a ballistic missile, believed to be a KN-11.
The missile was launched from a submarine near the North Korean coastal city of Sinpo at around 5:30 a.m. local time earlier in the day. It reportedly flew some 500 kilometers (311 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan.
“We have confirmed that we will urge North Korea to exercise self-restraint regarding its provocative action, and to observe the UN Security Council's resolutions,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a joint press conference with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts.
“I hope to coordinate closely in order for Japan, China and South Korea to lead the efforts of the international community,” he added.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also expressed Beijing’s opposition to the North’s nuclear and missile work, saying his country is opposed to any move that exacerbates tensions in the region.
Beijing “is opposed to any actions that violate UN Security Council Resolution 2270,” Wang further said, referring to a resolution passed in March denouncing Pyongyang’s military activities, including rocket launches.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se also said that Pyongyang’s repeated missile tests since the beginning of this year “demonstrated a rapid advancement of capability,” expressing concern over the “urgent situation.”
He also said that the three countries should be united in tackling the problem.
Seoul’s officials had earlier censured the launch as an “armed protest” against the commencement of annual South Korean-US military drills that Pyongyang calls an invasion rehearsal.
The annual two-week “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” maneuver, which is largely computer-simulated, started on Monday with the participation of 50,000 Korean and 30,000 US soldiers.
The Korean People’s Army (KPA) issued a statement Monday morning, threatening a “preemptive retaliatory strike,” should the war drills threaten Pyongyang’s sovereignty.
Earlier on Wednesday, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, also “strongly protested” against the move and called it “unforgivable.”
The US also joined the trio and slammed the North Korea’s latest missile launch as a provocation and vowed to raise the issue at the United Nations.
Tensions have been flaring in the region since January when North Korea said it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb, its fourth nuclear test, and vowed to build up its nuclear program as deterrence against potential aggression from the US and its regional allies.
A month later, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket which it said placed an earth observation satellite into orbit. However, Washington and Seoul denounced it as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear “deterrence” unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.
The UN has imposed a general ban on Pyongyang’s developing of the ballistic missile technology. It has adopted five rounds of crippling sanctions on the North since it first tested an atomic device in 2006.