Hypersonic missile launch by North Korea 050122 CREDIT REUTERS
Hypersonic missile launch by North Korea (Pictures: Reuters).
North Korea

US, Japan and South Korea meet to discuss North Korea

After meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, the US Secretary of State said North Korea was "in a phase of provocation".

Hypersonic missile launch by North Korea 050122 CREDIT REUTERS
Hypersonic missile launch by North Korea (Pictures: Reuters).

The US, Japan and South Korea have met to discuss the threat posed by nuclear-armed North Korea after Pyongyang began the year with a series of missile tests.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Hawaii on Saturday and said at a news conference North Korea is "in a phase of provocation" - with the three countries condemning the recent missile launches.

"We are absolutely united in our approach, in our determination," he said after his talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong.

He said the countries are "very closely consulting" on further steps they might take in response to North Korea, but did not offer specifics.

They released a joint statement calling on North Korea to engage in dialogue and cease its "unlawful activities"..

Watch: The threat of North Korea and their hypersonic missiles. 13 January 2022.

They said they have no hostile intent towards North Korea and are open to meeting Pyongyang officials without preconditions.

Mr Hayashi later told Japanese reporters that the three ministers had "very fruitful" discussions on North Korea but declined to give details on additional measures they may take

North Korea has a long history of using provocations such as missile or nuclear tests to seek international concessions. 

The latest tests come as North Korea's economy, already battered by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions, has been hit hard by pandemic border closures.

Many see the tests as an attempt to pressure US President Joe Biden's administration into easing the sanctions. 

Watch: How much of a concern is North Korea's new missile? 20 December 2021.

The Biden administration has shown no willingness to do so without meaningful cuts to North Korea’s nuclear programme, but it has offered open-ended talks.

The North has rebuffed US offers to resume diplomacy, saying it will not return to talks unless Washington drops what it says are hostile polices. 

North Korea bristles at both the sanctions and regular military exercises the US holds with South Korea.

The tests also have a technical component, allowing North Korea to hone its weapons arsenal. 

One of the missiles recently tested, the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, is capable of reaching the US territory of Guam - the longest-distance weapon the North has tested since 2017.

North Korea appears to be pausing its tests during the Winter Olympics in China, its most important ally and economic lifeline, but analysts believe North Korea will dramatically increase its weapons testing after the Games.