• Kyodo

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Japan has lodged a protest with North Korea over its launch of short-range missiles off its eastern coast, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday.

The protest was conveyed through diplomatic channels Monday, several hours after the launch.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera charged that the missile launches, which followed similar launches last Thursday, posed a danger to aircraft and ships.

The 17 hours it took to confirm the launch prompted speculation that the government feared a protest would have a negative impact on an informal meeting with North Korea in China on Monday. Suga said the delay was due to analyzing the development in cooperation with other countries.

Also on Tuesday, Japan welcomed the informal talks with North Korea as a step toward resuming negotiations to resolve such issues as the North’s past abductions of Japanese citizens.

“It was meaningful to some extent that the two governments exchanged opinions for the first time in 16 months,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters after the countries’ diplomats met for two hours Monday in Shenyang, China, on the sidelines of talks between their Red Cross societies.

But Kishida also said this will not immediately lead to a restart of full intergovernmental negotiations. He noted that Tokyo “will seek a positive response from North Korea to resolve the abductions of Japanese nationals and other issues.”

Suga told a separate press conference that Japan and North Korea had exchanged opinions in a “constructive” manner.

“We conveyed Japan’s perception of the problems,” he added.

What was discussed during the two-hour session remains unclear, with Japanese officials only suggesting the abductions in the 1970s and 1980s were among the topics, along with Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

The Foreign Ministry is due to report the outcome of the meeting to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has expressed determination to resolve the abduction issue while he is in office. The issue has prevented Tokyo and Pyongyang from normalizing relations.

Full intergovernmental talks between Japan and North Korea have been suspended since late 2012, when the North launched what it called a “satellite.” Japan and other countries condemned it as a covert test of long-range missile technology in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

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