National security advisers of the US, South Korea and Japan have called for a stronger international push to suppress North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles and its military co-operation with other countries, amid concerns about its alleged arms transfers to Russia.
The meeting in Seoul on Saturday comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest in years, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un accelerating the expansion of his nuclear and missile program and flaunting an escalatory nuclear doctrine that authorises the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons.
The US and its Asian allies have responded by increasing the visibility of their trilateral security co-operation in the region and strengthening their combined military exercises, which Kim condemns as invasion rehearsals.
US and Japanese officials said Saturday's three-way talks would include discussions on North Korea's recent launch of its first military reconnaissance satellite, which Kim has described as crucial for monitoring US and South Korean military activities and enhancing the threat of his nuclear-capable missiles.
Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have also expressed concerns about a potential arms alignment between North Korea and Russia. They worry Kim is providing badly needed munitions to help Russian President Vladimir Putin wage war in Ukraine in exchange for Russian technology assistance to upgrade his nuclear-armed military.
Following the meeting, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington will strengthen its co-ordination with Seoul and Tokyo to respond to North Korean cyber crimes and other efforts to bypass US-led international sanctions aimed at choking off funds going to its nuclear weapons and missile program.
The discussions between the national security advisers in Seoul came after the US, South Korean and Japanese nuclear envoys met in Tokyo for separate talks on North Korea.
The nuclear envoys shared their assessments about North Korea's recent satellite launch and weapons development and discussed ways to more effectively respond to North Korea's cyber theft activities and other illicit efforts to evade US-led international sanctions and finance its weapons program, the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministries said.
South Korean intelligence officials have said the Russians likely provided technology support for North Korea's successful satellite launch in November, which followed two failed launches.
North Korea has said its spy satellite transmitted imagery with space views of key sites in the US and South Korea, including the White House and the Pentagon.
But it hasn't released any of those satellite photos. Many outside experts question whether the North's satellite is sophisticated enough to send militarily useful high-resolution imagery.
Kim has vowed to launch more satellites, saying his military needs to acquire space-based reconnaissance capabilities.
South Korean intelligence and military officials have said North Korea may have shipped more than a million artillery shells to Russia beginning in August, weeks before Kim travelled to Russia's Far East for a rare summit with Putin that sparked international concerns about a potential arms deal.
Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied US and South Korean claims about the alleged arms transfers.
Australian Associated Press