UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Japan on Monday (July 17) downplayed South Korea's offer to hold military talks with North Korea, saying the priority should be piling pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions.
"This is not a time for dialogue. This is a time for pressure," Japan's foreign ministry spokesman Norio Maruyama told reporters in New York where Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was attending a UN meeting on development.
"This is a time to raise pressure in order to conduct a serious dialogue," said Maruyama.
South Korea's defence ministry proposed a meeting to be held on Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom to ease tensions after Pyongyang tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
If the meeting goes ahead, it would be the first official inter-Korea talks since December 2015.
The offer came as the United States is locked in difficult negotiations with China at the United Nations on a new sanctions resolution in response to the ICBM test.
The tougher measures could include an oil embargo, a ban on North Korean guest workers, banning North Korean ships from all ports and stronger trade restrictions.
Japan supports new sanctions but also maintains that Russia and China must do more to fully implement the current set of measures targeting their economic ties with North Korea.
In the first six months of this year, trade between China and North Korea increased 10.5 per cent to US$2.5 billion (S$3.4 billion), compared to the same period last year, according to official figures from Beijing.
Iron ore imports from North Korea surged, with China arguing that the UN sanctions resolution allows for trade if the income is used for the livelihood of civilians.
In May, Russia opened a new ferry service from Vladivostok in the far east to North Korea's Rajin port, a move seen as a boost to bilateral ties.
"What is important is to stop the flow of currency to North Korea," said Maruyama.