US, S. Korea, Japan to curb illicit N Korea cyber activities

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Senior diplomats from the United States, South Korea and Japan agreed Tuesday to boost efforts to curb North Korea’s illicit cyber activities and other methods to finance its nuclear program and evade international sanctions.

Meeting in Indonesia’s capital, the three envoys in charge of North Korea’s nuclear program also agreed to strengthen their trilateral security cooperation in the face of North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile arsenals.

In his opening remarks, Sung Kim, the U.S. envoy who also serves as Washington’s ambassador in Jakarta, said that North Korea’s provocative run of missile tests this year has proven yet again that the North “presents one of the most serious security challenges in the region and beyond.”

Calling North Korean threats “a global issue,” Sung Kim said the challenges posed by North Korea can only be addressed when the international community stands together and speaks with one voice.

After the meeting, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the three envoys decided to “double down their efforts to block North Korea’s financing of nuclear and missile programs via cyber activities and other means and its attempt to evade sanctions on the North.”

North Korea has been under 11 rounds of United Nations sanctions imposed over its repeated nuclear and missile tests since 2006. South Korean officials said recently that North Korea has been turning to cybercrime and covert ship-to-ship transfers of unauthorized goods as a way to violate those U.N. sanctions.

In recent months, North Korea test-fired dozens of missiles, including powerful ballistic weapons that flew over Japan and demonstrated a potential to reach the American mainland. But the U.N. Security Council has failed to adopt fresh sanctions on North Korea because of opposition from China and Russia, two veto-wielding members that are locked in confrontations with the United States.

Kim Gunn, the South Korean envoy, said North Korea’s nuclear ambitions would only undermine its own security, prolong its diplomatic isolation and worsen its economic hardships. He expressed hopes that North Korea would return to denuclearization talks while repeating a demand for China, the North’s last major ally and economic pipeline, to play a constructive role to help resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

Takehiro Funakoshi, the Japanese envoy, said that North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile test prompted Tokyo to increase its defense budget.

“We will examine all options, including counter-strike capabilities,” Funakoshi said. He said that Japan will be more vigilant against malicious cyber activities by North Korea though it remains committed to seeking dialogue with the North.

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Hyung-jin Kim reported from Seoul, South Korea.

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