The Japanese and Spanish defense ministers agreed Monday that the international community should continue putting pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile ambitions, even as signs of easing tension emerge on the Korean Peninsula.
“Now is the time for the international community to apply maximum pressure so that we can hear from North Korea serious ideas and concrete actions toward its denuclearization,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told his Spanish counterpart Maria Delores de Cospedal at the outset of their meeting.
The Spanish minister expressed support for Japan’s concerns, saying that Pyongyang’s test-firing of missiles “clearly violates” U.N. Security Council resolutions and that its provocative acts should not be allowed.
Onodera hailed Spain’s tough stance against North Korea, referring to its decision last year to become the first European nation to expel its North Korean ambassador over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
The two ministers also reaffirmed the importance of a free and open maritime order, according to a joint press statement issued after the talks. The Spanish minister welcomed the Japan-advocated “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy, apparently designed to counter China’s rising activities in waters in the region.
On the situation in the East and South China seas where China has territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations, the defense chiefs said in the statement that they are “strongly opposed to any unilateral actions that alter the status quo and could increase tensions.”
The two also agreed to enhance their bilateral defense cooperation. It was the second Japan-Spain defense ministers’ meeting, with the first held in November 2014.
In a sign of easing tension on the Korean Peninsula, the two Koreas held their first official talks in more than two years last week. North Korea said it will send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.