North Korea's nuclear threat now at 'critical and imminent level', says Japan

Former US President Jimmy Carter

The threat from North Korea has grown to a "critical and imminent level" and the United States, Japan and South Korea must address the matter, Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told his USA and South Korean counterparts in talks on Monday.

In recent months, North Korea has tested developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the USA mainland and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date.

The Pentagon said the USA defence chief and ASEAN ministers discussed North Korea as well as the "the need to increase cooperation on countering violent extremism to stem the threat posed from groups" such as the Islamic State and "the threat posed by returning foreign fighters".

"Therefore, we have to take calibrated and different responses to meet that level of threat", he said, without elaborating on what "different" responses Japan favors.

South Korea's Song also acknowledged that "North Korea's provocative behaviour is becoming worse and worse", in public remarks before reporters were escorted out of the meeting room.

It would not be the first time Carter collaborated with a president or traveled to North Korea in a diplomatic mission.

Kim has blasted Trump as "mentally deranged".

The defence ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), meeting in the northern Philippine city of Clark ahead of talks with Mattis, issued a strong statement against North Korea on Monday.

The comments from Mr Onodera came amid escalating tension between North Korea and the West.

They underscored the "need to maintain peace and stability in the region" and called "for the exercise of self-restraint and the resumption of dialogue to de-escalate tensions in the Korean peninsula". Many experts believe those missiles - which North Korea has tested by firing over Japan - could reach the United States mainland.

Mattis, on his way to the Philippines for security talks with Southeast Asian defence ministers, said he would discuss the "regional security crisis caused by reckless". In an apparent show of force against North Korea, the United States also sent several of its advanced warplanes, including four F-22 and F-35 fighter jets and two B-1B long-range bombers, for an air show and exhibition in Seoul that began on Tuesday. In 2010, he negotiated the release of an imprisoned USA citizen.

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