- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2017

BONN, Germany (AP) - The United States, South Korea and Japan on Thursday condemned North Korea’s latest missile test and said they will enhance security cooperation in response.

A joint statement by the nations’ three top diplomats said the U.S. “remains steadfast” in its defense commitments to the two Asian allies, “backed by the full range of its nuclear and conventional defense capabilities.”

The statement came after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Bonn, Germany, where they were attending a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 nations.

On Sunday, North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile from a mobile launcher, signaling advancement in its capabilities as it develops nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

South Korea and Japan, both hosts to tens of thousands of U.S. forces, are within range of North Korean missiles. Washington, under the Obama administration, nudged Seoul and Tokyo to set aside historical acrimony and work closer together in the face of the common threat.

In 2014, the three nations signed a pact on joint intelligence-sharing about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Although relations remain tense, South Korea and Japan in November agreed to share sensitive information bilaterally as well.

President Donald Trump this week vowed to “deal with” North Korea, calling it “a big, big problem.” But he has not spelled out how he intends to do so. Experts say that North Korea will likely gain the capacity to reach the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons in the next few years.

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