The United States has made clear it is prepared to engage in nuclear negotiations with the DPRK without any preconditions. But as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the recent Aspen Security Forum, “Here’s the response we got: one missile launch after another.”
Since the start of 2022, the DPRK has launched an estimated 100 missiles, in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. In response to the DPRK’s provocations and intransigence, the United States, has “not stood still,” said Secretary Blinken:
“The partnership, the alliance that we have with Japan and with South Korea has grown even stronger, even deeper, and we’ve taken further steps to make sure that we could defend ourselves, defend our allies and partners, deter any aggression coming from North Korea.”
That deepening trilateral relationship was in evidence in June at the meeting in Singapore of the three countries’ defense ministers, where they pledged to address their concerns over the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction and missile programs “through concerted trilateral cooperation,” and “to cooperate closely…to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Strengthened cooperation was on display as well in the arrival of a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine in South Korea on July 24, just days after the first U.S. nuclear-armed submarine made port in the country for the first time in decades. In addition, the U.S., Japan, and South Korea are in discussions about sharing early missile warning data and are making plans for more regularized military exercises together.
“So, in effect,” said Secretary Blinken, “the response that North Korea has elicited with these repeated provocations has only been to solidify the work that the United States, [South] Korea and Japan are doing together to make sure we can defend ourselves.”
Another avenue the United States is pursuing, he noted, is trying to persuade the PRC to help bring North Korea to the negotiating table to “advance a shared vision for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.”
“What I’ve shared with Chinese counterparts is this: We believe that you have unique influence, and we hope that you will use it to get better cooperation from North Korea,” he said.
If the PRC is unable or unwilling to help, Secretary Blinken said, the United States will continue to strengthen our own defenses, and those of South Korea and Japan.