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Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka expressed hope Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will meet with former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama for talks during his visit to Pyongyang.

Speaking at a regular press conference, Nonaka said it is desirable for Murayama to hold candid talks with Kim about the future relationship of the two nations. “I think realizing such a meeting will create an opportunity to lead the two nations toward establishing a good relationship,” the top government spokesman said.

In a bid for a breakthrough in normalization talks stalled since 1992, Murayama will visit the ailing country with a suprapartisan parliamentary group later this month following nationwide local elections in Japan.

Murayama has already received an invitation from North Korea, but the group’s members and itinerary have not yet been decided.

According to Nonaka, Murayama told him that during his reign as prime minister, he had hoped to normalize ties with North Korea.

Murayama is aiming to create a path toward normalization through his visit, Nonaka said. Murayama has indicated that the alleged intrusion of two North Korean ships into Japanese waters last month will not overshadow his journey.

Tension between North Korea and Japan has intensified following the ship incident and the Aug. 31 launch of a North Korean rocket over Japan, a move which prompted Tokyo to impose various sanctions against Pyongyang.

The Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party also plan to send separate missions to the ailing country in the near future.

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