Tokyo: Foreign ministers from Japan, China and South Korea held their first talks in more than a year Wednesday just hours after North Korea fired a ballistic missile from a submarine towards Japan.
The apparently successful launch, which Japan said marked the first time a North Korean sub-launched missile had entered its air defence identification zone, was likely to top the agenda.
The meeting, the first since March 2015, comes as Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing have struggled to find common ground on how to deal with North Korea.
Japan and South Korea regularly condemn Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile development, but are frustrated by what they see as a lack of pressure on the country by the North`s economic lifeline China.
Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida said the launch was "absolutely unacceptable," in his opening remarks, adding that the three countries should closely cooperate and lead the global effort to deal with North Korea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier called for calm.
"We hope that (the situation) will not become more tense and complicated," he told reporters in Tokyo ahead of the trilateral talks, Jiji Press reported.
The talks also start as Japan, China and South Korea are themselves at odds over territorial disputes and a US missile defence system.
The ministers -- China`s Wang, host Kishida and South Korea`s Yun Byung-Se -- held hands for photographs at the start of the meeting.
They met for dinner at a Tokyo hotel Tuesday ahead of the talks, which come in the run-up to a Group of 20 summit in China early next month.
Sino-Japanese tensions over a territorial dispute have risen this month, while China and South Korea have sparred over the planned deployment in the latter country of a US anti-missile system.
Japan and China are locked in a long-running dispute over uninhabited islets in the East China Sea called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
Tokyo has lodged more than two dozen protests through diplomatic channels since August 5, saying there have been about 30 intrusions by Chinese vessels into its territorial waters.
Separately, China has complained about the planned deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, arguing the missile shield damages its own security interests and will heighten regional tension.
South Korea, wary of offending China, had wavered about the installation but went ahead in the face of North Korea`s continued missile development.
China is "resolutely opposed", Wang told reporters after holding a bilateral meeting with South Korea`s Yun, Jiji reported.