Korea, Japan foreign ministers hold phone talks

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Korea, Japan foreign ministers hold phone talks

The top diplomats of South Korea and Japan held phone talks Friday over North Korea’s short-range ballistic missile launches and Tokyo’s recent export restrictions, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said.

During the talks, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono shared the view that close cooperation among the South, the United States and Japan is crucial in responding to the North’s missile launches and facilitating ongoing peace efforts with Pyongyang, the ministry said in a press release.

On Thursday, the North fired two short-range ballistic missiles of a “new type” from its eastern coastal city of Wonsan into the East Sea, Seoul officials have said. They traveled around 600 kilometers (373 miles) both at an altitude of 50 kilometers.

The latest saber-rattling came as the North took issue with the planned South Korea-U.S. combined military exercise, which it warned would affect the resumption of stalled working-level nuclear talks with Washington.

During the phone conversation, Kang also called for Japan to immediately reverse its recent restrictions on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials vital to the manufacturing of semiconductors and displays.

Kang demanded that Japan not take steps to further aggravate tensions between the two neighbors, including the possible elimination of South Korea from its “white list” of 27 trusted partner countries given preferential treatment in export procedures.

In response, Kono repeated Tokyo’s position on the matters, the ministry said.

“The two ministers shared the understanding that dialogue and communication through diplomatic channels should continue particularly in times of difficulties in the bilateral relationship,” the ministry said.

“[They] agreed to use various occasions, such as multilateral forums, to exchange opinions on matters of mutual interest,” it added.

Both Kang and Kono are set to attend a series of multilateral talks, involving Asean nations, slated to take place in Thailand next week. No announcement has yet been made on whether they will hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the gatherings.

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