By Justin Sink - 03/25/14 03:10 PM EDT
President Obama declared North Korea's nuclear program "unacceptable" during a meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea on Tuesday in The Hague.
The president said the U.S. commitment to the security of both allies was "unwavering" and said the leaders would seek to deepen diplomatic and military cooperation, including joint exercises on missile defense.
"Our trilateral cooperation has sent a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response and that the U.S. commitment to the security of both Japan and the Republic of Korea is unwavering, and that a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable," Obama said.
The meeting comes just days after Japan and North Korea agreed to hold formal talks on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons for the first time in more than a year.
Tuesday’s conference also represented a warming of relations between Seoul and Tokyo, whose leaders are locked in a dispute over Japanese soldiers’ treatment of Korean women during World War II. In fact, it was the first time South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had met for formal talks since both were elected more than a year ago.
South Korea has asked Japan to pay reparations to women who were forced into sexual slavery, and Park has criticized Abe's visit to a shrine in Tokyo honoring Japanese veterans from the era.
Obama stressed that it was "very important for our three nations to display this kind of unity and shared determination."
"It's an important message to our citizens; it's an important message to the Asia Pacific region," Obama said.
Park noted that the U.S. had "worked very hard to make today's meeting happen."
"I sincerely hope that this meeting will offer a chance for us to reaffirm our trilateral coordination and strengthen cooperation on the nuclear front," Park said.
Abe said he was "so very happy to be able to see" Park at the summit.
"It is highly meaningful and also timely that the leaders of the three countries sharing basic values and strategic interests are gathering together to have extensive discussions of security," Abe said.