The nuclear threat from North Korea is critical and requires a joint response from the United States, Japan, and South Korea, Japan's defense minister said Monday.
"[The] threat posed by North Korea has grown to the unprecedented, critical and imminent level. Therefore, we have to take calibrated and different responses to meet with that level of threat," Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told his U.S. and South Korean counterparts, speaking through a translator, at the start of talks in the Philippines.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis was more reserved in his remarks, but did slam North Korea for defying U.N. Security Council resolutions against its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"North Korea's provocations threaten regional and global security despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council," he said.
North Korea has said many times its nuclear weapons program is not subject to negotiation, and has rejected U.S. calls for its denuclearization.
Tensions between the North and the United States have been escalating following Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test last month, it’s sixth overall. North Korea has also conducted repeated tests of what intelligence officials have assessed to be both intermediate and long range ballistic missiles.
North Korea's nuclear capabilities have also been more widely discussed in Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ran for re-election on a platform largely dedicated to his hardline stance against Pyongyang.
The U.S. defense secretary's visit to the region comes just weeks before Donald Trump's first scheduled trip to Asia as U.S. president.