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Japan, South Korea discuss North Korea missile tests

Shigeki Takizaki (R), director-general at the Japanese foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau, exchanged a phone call with South Korea's Lee Do-hoon to discuss North Korea on Wednesday. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
Shigeki Takizaki (R), director-general at the Japanese foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau, exchanged a phone call with South Korea's Lee Do-hoon to discuss North Korea on Wednesday. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

April 8 (UPI) -- Senior diplomats representing Japan and South Korea exchanged a phone call to discuss North Korea's recent missile tests, according to multiple press reports.

Japanese television network NHK reported Wednesday Shigeki Takizaki, the Japanese diplomat for Asia and Oceanian affairs, spoke to Lee Do-hoon, South Korea's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs. The two sides agreed to engage in trilateral cooperation with the United States.

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North Korea has been active with weapons tests in March amid the global coronavirus pandemic. The short-range missiles were described as tactical weapons, and the provocations have been condemned in Tokyo and Seoul.

On Wednesday Takizaki and Lee addressed North Korea's test on March 29, when the regime used "super-large" rocket launchers near Wonsan to fire two missiles.

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Takizaki also raised the issue of COVID-19 in North Korea. Pyongyang has said there are zero cases of the deadly disease in the country, but infections could be spreading, Takizaki said during his call with Lee.

Tokyo has suggested North Korea is struggling to contain the virus.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on March 24 the disease is likely spreading from areas of North Korea bordering China, to its southern provinces.

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"If there are absolutely no confirmed patients in North Korea, then that would be a miracle," Motegi had said.

Lee's call with Takizaki comes after consultations with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and U.S. Special Representative on North Korea Stephen Biegun, South Korean news service Newsis reported.

The U.S. and South Korean representatives spoke last week using an online platform and agreed to the "full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" and the pursuit of a permanent peace settlement.

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North Korea's weapons tests are raising the stakes after Pyongyang pulled back from nuclear negotiations in 2019.

U.S. analyst Ankit Panda of The Diplomat said the tests might have been ordered in part to improve morale in the North Korean military following a month-long lockdown.

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