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Abe and Park agree to work together over responses to North Korean missile launches

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye agreed on Wednesday to coordinate their responses to North Korea’s ballistic missile launches, at bilateral talks on the sidelines of regional meetings in Laos.

“North Korea’s provocative actions are in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and must be directly challenged,” a Japanese government official quoted Abe as telling Park.

Abe also asked Park to include the issue of a contentious statue outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul in the implementation of a bilateral agreement concerning Korean women procured for Japan’s wartime military brothels.

According to a Japanese government official attending the meeting, Abe mentioned the statue in his request for Park’s cooperation on the implementation of the deal reached in December, which saw Japan deposit 1 billion yen (HK$76.4 million) last week in a fund for the former “comfort women”.

The meeting came after North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, or East Sea, shortly after midday on Monday, the latest in a string of launches in recent months.

UN Security Council resolutions bar North Korea from testing nuclear weapons, as it did most recently in January, and from launching ballistic missiles.

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Japanese government sources suggested on Tuesday that Abe would invite Park to make her first trip to Japan for a three-way summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang between late November and early December.

The leaders of the three countries agreed in Seoul in November last year to resume their rotation of annual trilateral talks, which were shelved in 2013 and 2014 while Japan-China ties were strained over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

The islands are administered by Japan, which calls them the Senkakus, but are also claimed by China.

Abe and Park previously sat down for talks on the fringes of a security summit in Washington in March.