In talks held on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security forum, in Singapore, Defense Minister Song Young-moo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shared the view that the summit between the North and the US later this month will serve as a "historic chance" for the denuclearization of the peninsula and establishment of permanent peace, according to Seoul's defense ministry. Mattis was speaking at the Shangri-La dialogue. "North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearization", added Mattis.
"We have seen history repeat where North Korea would declare to denuclearize, by portraying itself as a consolatory and forthcoming, only to turn around and avoid all worldwide efforts towards peace", said Onodera.
"As defence ministers we must maintain a strong collaborative defensive stance so we enable our diplomats to negotiate from a calm position of strength in this critical time".
On Sunday, the North's official daily Minju Joson slammed the South Korean military for joining the two military drills with the United States, which it said ran against the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration.
North Korea has faced years of economic sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes since it conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been acting as a go-between in diplomatic efforts for the potential holding of the summit between the US and North Korea - also long-time foes.
Meanwhile, North Korea moved to replace its defense minister ahead of the pivotal negotiations, Japan's Asahi newspaper reported Sunday, citing people that it didn't identify.
The comments sought to address concern the United States may be rushing to strike a breakthrough in the unprecedented summit between the two leaders after U.S. President Donald Trump put the meeting back on track for June 12 in Singapore.
"Both pressure and dialogue are important", he said, adding, "We believe that pressure will be maintained, which will help solve this problem".
Onodera and Song were to hold bilateral talks separately later Sunday.
"I know that President Trump has said he won't lift sanctions until North Korea agrees to denuclearization", Onodera said.
Song was quoted by the official as telling Onodera that given the rapid pace of developments on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea wants to cooperate with Japan to achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea.
The North Korean regime has historically shown an unwillingness to relinquish its nuclear capabilities, which it views as a guarantee of survival in the face of USA intimidation.