Kishida briefs Kerry about Japan's move to ease N. Korea sanctions

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida briefed his U.S. counterpart John Kerry about Tokyo's move last week to remove some sanctions measures against North Korea after Pyongyang said it has established a panel to investigate the fate of Japanese abductees, Japanese government sources said.

In a phone conversation held Monday night, Japan's top diplomat may have attempted to address U.S. concern that Japan could stray away from a united front with Washington in dealing with Pyongyang.

Kishida told Kerry that Japan lodged a protest over North Korea's June 29 launches of short-range ballistic missiles at a meeting of Japanese and North Korean officials on the abduction issue held July 1, and Kerry acknowledged Tokyo's action, the sources said.

Kishida and Kerry also reaffirmed the importance of coordination among Japan, the United States and South Korea in addressing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development issue, according to the sources.

Tokyo's defense posture shift to play a greater security role was also one of the topics in the conversation, the sources said. Kishida explained about last week's Cabinet decision to reinterpret the Constitution to enable Japan to exercise the so-called right to collective self-defense, or a right to defend an ally such as the United States when it comes under an armed attack, and the U.S. secretary of state welcomed the move, the sources said.