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Abe stresses 3-way cooperation after N. Korea missile launch

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized Saturday the unity
between Japan, the United States and South Korea in responding to the
threat from North Korea following the North's test-firing of a second
intercontinental ballistic missile the night before.

"Japan, the United States and South Korea are in complete
agreement about the need to strengthen pressure (on North Korea),
including at the U.N. Security Council," Abe told reporters at his
office after Japanese officials spoke to counterparts in Washington
and Seoul.

"Japan will resolutely respond (to the threat) while working in
close coordination with the international community in strong
cohesion with the United States, with South Korea, and between our
three countries," Abe said.

While the Abe administration insists that pressure rather than
dialogue is now necessary to compel Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear
and ballistic missile development efforts, South Korean President
Moon Jae In has proposed holding talks between the South and North.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said that while he and South
Korean counterpart Kang Kyung Wha explained their respective stances
to each other over the telephone on Saturday, they did agree on the
importance of putting pressure on North Korea.

"We affirmed that in dealing with the North Korea issue,
cooperation between its neighbors Japan and South Korea is
crucial...I think it's important that we each confirm our basic
thinking," Kishida said.

With U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Kishida agreed in
telephone talks to place "the maximum possible pressure" on Pyongyang
following the launch of the missile, which fell into the exclusive
economic zone ringing Japanese territorial waters.

Friday's launch followed North Korea's first test-firing of an
ICBM on July 4. The country has stated it aims to be able to deliver
nuclear warheads to the U.S. mainland.

Shotaro Yachi, head of the secretariat of Japan's National
Security Council, discussed the launch with H.R. McMaster, U.S.
President Donald Trump's national security adviser.

Abe later said the Japanese officials and their U.S.
counterparts agreed that the latest launch "has raised the threat
North Korea poses to both Japan and the United States."

The missile was launched shortly before midnight from an inland
site in North Korea and flew for about 45 minutes before landing
about 150 kilometers away from a small island off the coast of
Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island, Chief Cabinet Secretary
Yoshihide Suga told an impromptu press conference Saturday.

South Korea's military said the missile reached an altitude of
3,700 km and landed around 1,000 km from the launch site, prompting
U.S. experts to suggest it could reach the U.S. mainland if launched
on an optimal trajectory.

The timing in the middle of the night departed from previous
North Korean missile launches.

A senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official speculated Saturday
that Pyongyang fired the missile late at night to demonstrate its
ability to use its missiles at any time.

On Friday morning, Japan imposed additional unilateral sanctions
on North Korea, including adding to its blacklists two Chinese firms
and nine individuals with ties to the country.

The move was in line with the United States, where Congress
passed a sanctions bill Thursday.

Kishida is currently serving as both foreign and defense
minister, having taken on the duties of Tomomi Inada who stepped down
from the defense portfolio on Friday following a data coverup scandal
at her ministry.

He is not expected to continue in both roles for more than a few
days, however, with a Cabinet reshuffle expected next week.

Suga insisted Saturday that Kishida's dual role poses
"absolutely no detriment" to Japan's handling of risks to national
security. (July 29)