TOKYO — Senior officials from Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed Thursday to step up pressure on North Korea as they stick to their goal of persuading the communist state to abandon its nuclear weapons.
Their pledge comes just two days after U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper publicly called that goal a "lost cause." He said the best hope is capping its capability instead.
The deputy foreign ministers who held talks in Tokyo made clear that North Korea now poses a new level of threat and requires broader international pressure and tougher sanctions.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, said their policy has not changed.
"We will not accept North Korea as nuclear state, we will not accept North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons, period," Blinken said. "We are focused on increasing the pressure on North Korea with one purpose: to bring it back to the table to negotiate in good faith. Denuclearization. That is the objective."
Getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program has long been a headache in multilateral diplomacy with Pyongyang.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama, who hosted Thursday's talks, cited North Korea's recent tests showing the country's missile and nuclear capability had entered a new level of threat. "We need to respond differently than in the past," he said.
Officials cited the sanctions and missile defense that have been already in place, but did not elaborate on their different approaches other than fresh sanctions pending at the United Nations and possible separate additional measures by the three countries.
Meanwhile, South Korea said Thursday it plans to restart talks with Japan on a military intelligence sharing agreement to better cope with threats from North Korea.
Information from Japan's network of satellites and other intelligence-gathering systems would be critical in monitoring and preparing against North Korea's fast developing nuclear weapons and missile programs, South Korea's Defense Ministry said.
The United States, South Korea and Japan signed a joint intelligence-sharing pact in 2014, but under the frame work Seoul and Tokyo only share intelligence about North Korea's nuclear and missile programs via Washington. A bilateral agreement between South Korea and Japan would enable a quicker transfer of information between the countries in urgent situations.
South Korea and Japan nearly signed a bilateral intelligence sharing pact in 2012, but Seoul backed off at the last minute following political outcry at home. Many South Koreans hold resentment over Japan's brutal occupation of the Korean Peninsula before the end of World War II and express uneasiness about the country's military role in the region.
Associated Press writer Tong-hyung Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.