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Japan, S. Korea leaders to hold phone call Thurs. over N. Korea

The media visits the border villages of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, on Oct. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

TOKYO/SEOUL (Kyodo) -- South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will hold phone talks on Thursday afternoon, two days after North Korea launched a ballistic missile in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, South Korea's government said Wednesday.

    The leaders of the two nations are expected to confirm close cooperation in response to Pyongyang's military threat, rekindled Tuesday by the first firing of a ballistic missile over the Japanese archipelago in five years, according to Japanese government sources.

    North Korea's latest missile launch came after Japan, South Korea and the United States on Friday held anti-submarine drills in international waters adjacent to the Sea of Japan, the first such training in five years.

    The projectile, which may have been a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, flew 4,600 kilometers, which is the longest horizontal distance achieved by a missile from the nuclear-armed country, while reaching an altitude of 1,000 km, the Japanese government said.

    The distance is enough to reach the U.S. territory of Guam, where key military bases are located.

    Following North Korea's launch on Tuesday, Kishida agreed with U.S. President Joe Biden over the phone that the two close security allies will boost their deterrence and response capabilities.

    Relations between Tokyo and Seoul deteriorated to the worst level in decades over wartime labor and territorial issues under the government of Yoon's predecessor, the left-leaning Moon Jae In.

    However, there have been signs of a thaw in ties recently since Yoon, known for adopting a hard-line stance on Pyongyang, was inaugurated in May. Yoon has pledged to take a future-oriented approach toward Japan.

    In late September, Kishida and Yoon reaffirmed their countries' aim to restore "sound bilateral relations," in a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, which was fully closed to media and described by Tokyo and Seoul as "informal."

    The in-person, sit-down talks were the first between leaders of the Asian neighbors since December 2019.

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