North Korea's missile testing is leading to advances that make it "more critical than ever" for South Korea and other countries to come together to persuade the reclusive regime to curb its nuclear capabilities, said a South Korean official at an international defence dialogue in Seoul.
Apparently abandoning a "strategic ambiguity" stance in favour of active nuclear development, Pyongyang has fired 22 ballistic missiles since the beginning of the year, said Mr Kim Hong Kyun, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs.
"The continuous multiple test launches of various ballistic missiles are rapidly advancing North Korea's capabilities to realise such nuclear strategy and threats," he said yesterday at one session on the threat posed by the North's nuclear arsenal. "We must focus all our energy on resolving this issue with utmost urgency and firm resolve."
South Korean President Park Geun Hye, in her travels to Russia, China and Laos in the past week, has also been urging the international community to unite in curbing North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
In the Laotian capital of Vientiane on Tuesday, Ms Park and United States President Barack Obama reaffirmed that the two allies would mobilise all possible measures to counter Pyongyang's provocations.
Mr Kim said the South Korean government is strongly committed to breaking Pyongyang's "vicious circle" of provocations and to "eventually induce the North to come back to the table for meaningful dialogue on denuclearisation".
North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and has continued firing missiles ever since. In its latest launches, three ballistic missiles landed in waters in Japan's north-western Exclusive Economic Zone on Monday as world leaders met in China for the Group of 20 summit.
North Korea is also one of four countries that have not joined the Chemical Weapons Convention under the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has destroyed 93 per cent of all declared chemical weapons since 1997. The others are Israel, Egypt and South Sudan.
OPCW director-general Ahmet Uzumcu said North Korea is known to have manufactured 16 to 18 kinds of chemical weapons and has a stockpile of about 3,000 tonnes.
Mr Uzumcu urged the world to continue to exert pressure on the North to give up its weapons of mass destruction. He said China, North Korea's economic lifeline, could play an important role to that end.
The 5th Seoul Defence Dialogue, organised by South Korea's Defence Ministry, drew about 500 participants from 34 countries. Beijing officials, who attended the past three instalments of the dialogue, were conspicuously missing.
A Defence Ministry spokesman said China did not give a reason for its absence but South Korea's media said Beijing opted out to protest against the planned deployment of a US anti-missile system in South Korea, which Beijing fears can be used to spy on its military.