US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman sent a “very critical message” to North Korea on Tuesday, that the United States, Japan and South Korea stand “shoulder-to-shoulder over their policy towards the reclusive nation.

The announcement was made by the US official at the conclusion of trilateral talks, held in Tokyo despite recent tension between Japan and South Korea over recriminations for Japan’s historic intervention in Korea.

“That close coordination sends a very critical message to North Korea in that we are together and shoulder-to-shoulder in our approach to this policy,” Sherman said on Wednesday.

Japan’s vice foreign minister, Takeo Mori, reiterated support for the unified policy, and said America’s involvement is crucial for securing denuclearization in North Korea, and warning that the secretive nation’s “next move is unpredictable.”

The South Korean vice foreign minister, Choi Jong-kun, shared his counterparts’ sentiments, calling the work to address concerns about North Korea’s nuclear capability a “long game” that will require patience and cooperation.

The commitment to remain united over North Korea comes after South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in abandoned a planned trip to Tokyo during the Summer Olympics over an insult from a senior diplomat at Japan’s embassy in Seoul. Describing Moon’s attempts to bolster relations between South Korea and Japan, the diplomat had liked his behavior to “masturbating.”

Since US President Joe Biden took office, North Korea has rejected America’s invitations to restart negotiations. In June, after American officials offered to meet “anywhere, anytime,” North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Son-gwon declared that their country is “not considering even the possibility of any contact with the US.” 

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