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Japanese prime minister Fumio Kushida and South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol on Wednesday urged the United States to “upgrade” their three-way alliance to confront threats posed by North Korea.

The two leaders made the remarks at the end of a tripartite meeting with US president Joe Biden held on the sidelines of a Nato summit in Madrid.

According to a White House transcript of their remarks following the meeting, Kishida said he was “deeply concerned over the possibility of further provocation by North Korea, including nuclear testing.”

The prime minister said the threat posed by Pyongyang showed that the “deterrence capabilities” of the three allies “need to be upgraded as part of the essential effort to strengthen the trilateral partnership.”

Kishida also welcomed an agreement reached recently at a ministerial meeting between the three countries' defense ministers "to conduct trilateral missile warning and ballistic missile search and tracking exercises."

"In the case a nuclear test is performed, I hope that response can be taken at the trilateral level, including joint exercises," he said.

Kishida added that his country would strengthen its defense capabilities to consolidate deterrence and response efforts in its collaboration with the US.

Yoon, meanwhile, warned that Pyongyang's missile and nuclear threats, as well as talk of uncertainty in the global arena, make this trilateral collaboration all the more meaningful.

Yoon hoped that after Wednesday’s meeting, the partnership would become "another central pillar for global peace and stability."

Biden said the three-way cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo was “essential” to guaranteeing security in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in the face of the “evolving threat” posed by Pyongyang's "unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs."

The US leader also praised both allies for their efforts against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Biden “underscored the US’ unshakeable commitment” to defending Japan and South Korea, a White House statement added.

Earlier on Wednesday, the leaders of Australia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand met in Madrid ahead of the summit to demonstrate their collective will to enhance cooperation with the alliance.

Australia’s Anthony Albanese, South Korea’s Yoon Suk-yeol, Japan’s Fumio Kishida and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern held a meeting in a hotel in Madrid before traveling to the summit which they were attending as the leaders of guest nations.

The South Korean president stressed the "importance" of the four-way meeting, pointing out that Seoul has been collaborating with Nato as a global partner since 2006, "jointly responding to security threats that affect international security."

"We hope this will be an opportunity to exchange views on our roles and contributions to Nato," Yoon said in his remarks at the meeting, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

The Japanese prime minister, meanwhile, stressed his willingness to "discuss paths of cooperation to achieve the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific," in reference to the strategy promoted by Tokyo and Washington to counter China's military rise in the region.

Kishida also noted that the four Asia-Pacific countries should look “to contribute in various ways to Nato, with which they share values, to cooperate for peace and stability in the international community."

Biden, meanwhile, said the “attendance of all four of these leaders highlights the global resolve to hold Russia accountable for its brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine and our shared determination to defend the rules-based international order.”

The leaders of Japan and South Korea also showed their willingness to improve bilateral relations, which have become strained in recent years amid disputes stemming from Japan's occupation of the Korean peninsula before World War II. EFE

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