US,South Korea and Japan allies vow steep price for North Korea nuclear test

SEOUL : The United States and its two main military allies in Asia, South Korea and Japan pledged a combined push on Thursday to secure a comprehensive, hard-hitting international response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test.

The leaders of the three countries, who have long sought to project a  united front against the North Korean nuclear threat, spoke by phone a day  after Pyongyang’s shock announcement that it had tested its first hydrogen bomb.

Their consultations followed a meeting of the 15-member UN Security Council in New York which, with backing from China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally, strongly condemned the test and said it would begin work on a new UN draft resolution that would contain “further significant measures.”

UN diplomats confirmed that talks were under way on strengthening several sets of sanctions that have been imposed on secretive North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006.

In South Korea, the mood was uncompromising, with President Park Geun-Hye calling for a strong international response to what she called a “grave provocation.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke with Obama and agreed that they should spearhead the effort to impose harsher penalties on Pyongyang.

“We will take firm and resolute steps, including considering measures  unique to our nation,” Abe said, hinting at unilateral moves.

Park spoke with US President Barack Obama on Thursday morning, with both leaders insisting that the test merited the “most powerful and comprehensive sanctions,” her presidential office said in a statement.

— Paying the price —

“The two leaders agreed that the North should pay the appropriate price  and vowed to closely cooperate to get a strong resolution adopted at the UN Security Council,” it added.

 

The censure and sanctions threats had a familiar ring, given similar  outrage that greeted the North’s previous tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, and some voices stressed the need to find a strategy that combined coercion with negotiation.

President of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security David Albright said a priority must be to find ways to both further pressure North Korea to limit its nuclear weapons capabilities and engage it diplomatically.

In announcing that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, North Korea said it had “joined the rank of advanced nuclear states” like Russia, France and the United States that also boast thermonuclear devices.

The order to test was personally signed by leader Kim Jong-Un, with a handwritten message to begin 2016 with the “thrilling sound of the first  hydrogen bomb explosion.”

Agencies

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