UNITED NATIONS • Three major US allies have condemned North Korea's "repeated provocative launches" of ballistic missiles, saying they violate United Nations Security Council resolutions banning any such activity.
Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement on Tuesday after a closed council briefing by UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo which they requested because of serious concerns with the series of missile launches in recent weeks by North Korea.
The three European council members urged North Korea "to engage in meaningful negotiations with the US", as agreed to by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their June 30 meeting in the Demilitarised Zone.
"Serious efforts by North Korea to re-engage diplomatically and make progress on denuclearisation are the only way to guarantee security and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region," their statement said. They stressed that "international sanctions must remain in place and be fully and strictly enforced until North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes are dismantled".
Many diplomats and analysts credit 11 rounds of increasingly tougher UN sanctions - which have sharply cut North Korea's exports and imports - with helping promote the thaw in relations between North Korea and South Korea, and the two summits between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.
But talks between the US and North Korea have been at a standstill since the second Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi in February broke down over what the United States described as excessive North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for only a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
The statement by the US allies was not joined by the US or other members of the 15-nation Security Council and it was at odds with Mr Trump's comments downplaying the recent launches.
In last Saturday's launch, North Korea said Mr Kim supervised the test-firing of a "newly-developed super-large multiple rocket launcher". It appeared to be another demonstration of the North's expanding weapons arsenal apparently aimed at increasing its leverage ahead of a possible resumption of nuclear talks with the US.
Mr Trump responded to the launch saying: "Kim Jong Un has been, you know, pretty straight with me... He likes testing missiles but we never restricted short-range missiles. We'll see what happens."
Separately, Washington on Tuesday approved the US$3.3 billion (S$4.6 billion) sale of anti-ballistic missiles to Japan.
Japan will buy up to 73 of the Raytheon-made SM-3 Block IIA missiles, which are designed to be fired by the ship-board Aegis system to intercept incoming ballistic missiles, the Pentagon said.
The sale comes as North Korea is expanding its offensive missile capabilities, having proven over the past two years the ability to launch medium and long-range ballistic missiles, potentially nuclear-tipped, that could hit both Japan and the US.
The Pentagon also approved new arms sales to Hungary, South Korea, Lithuania and Denmark, worth US$943 million in total.