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The United States has been left with no option but to “double down” on the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea due to its rejection of dialogue, a senior U.S. diplomat said.

“I think we’ve had no choice but to double down on our security arrangements, particularly with the Republic of Korea and Japan, and no one should doubt the ironclad nature of our security commitments to those allies,” Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs said Tuesday during a forum hosted by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

“We’ve also doubled down with a large international coalition of partners who continue to enforce sanctions against North Korea. I think given North Korea's unwillingness to respond to our offer of diplomacy, we’ve been left with no choice but to focus on these harder elements of our strategy,” he added.

His remarks came as critics questioned President Joe Biden’s approach to North Korea in this election year due to the lack of progress in re-engaging with it , and its relentless pursuit of advanced weapons programs and military cooperation with Russia.

Kritenbrink added that the U.S. has pursued dialogue with the North “without preconditions” while highlighting its security commitment to its allies.

“Unfortunately, the only response we’ve received thus far from the DPRK has been more missile launches,” he said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The senior diplomat also pointed out progress among South Korea, or the the Republic of Korea as it is officially known, the U.S. and Japan in bilateral and trilateral efforts to stand up to North Korean threats 

“Our trilateral cooperation has also really reached unprecedented levels. And we have to be candid that a lot of that cooperation is designed to counter this growing threat from North Korea,” he said.

Leaders of  the three countries held a summit at Camp David in Maryland in August last year, where they agreed on a  “commitment to consult” each other in the event of a shared threat.

“There are many challenges across the Indo-Pacific. This [North Korea] remains one of the most significant and we are certainly focused on it on a daily basis,” Kritenbrink added.

Kritenbrink on Taiwan

Apart from North Korea, Kritenbrink also cited preserving the status quo in the Taiwan Strait along with broader regional peace and stability as U.S. priorities.

He highlighted the increasing Chinese coercion toward Taiwan and said the U.S. must use the Taiwan Relations Act to its advantage and cooperate with regional partners to contain Chinese aggression.

Kritenbrink added that Taiwan “plays a significant role” in the U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific region,  particularly with regard to  the global transport and semiconductor industries, stressing that any threat to the Taiwan Strait would have significant regional and international implications.

Edited by Mike Firn.


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By Taejun Kang for RFA.