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Kishida eyes informal talks with N. Korea counterpart at ASEAN meet

Kyodo

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will look to hold informal talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong on Aug. 10 on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum to be held in Myanmar, government sources said Sunday.

Kishida has opted for informal talks with Ri, rather than a formal meeting, apparently in consideration of the United States and South Korea, as Japan’s approach to North Korea could disturb trilateral coordination to rein in Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs, the sources said.

Japan has notified North Korea of its intention to arrange informal talks between Kishida and Ri, a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a source close to bilateral relations said. North Korea is expected to accept the suggestion.

In the talks, Kishida will likely urge North Korea to step up efforts so it can present by the end of August an initial report on its reinvestigation into the fate of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

He is also expected to criticize Pyongyang over its recent short-range missile launches and call for restraint.

Japan has already explained the possibility of such an informal meeting to the United States and South Korea, a source familiar with trilateral relations said.

The United States is becoming nervous about Japan’s push to resolve bilateral issues with North Korea after the two countries agreed in May on the reinvestigation into the abductions and Tokyo announced last month the lifting of some of its unilateral sanctions on the country after Pyongyang set up a special abduction investigation committee led by a senior official of the powerful National Defense Commission.

In telephone talks with Kishida last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to refrain from making any visit to North Korea.

Kishida is arranging a meeting with Kerry, and he is also considering meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.