• Kyodo

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A senior Foreign Ministry official arrived in Beijing on Saturday for talks with North Korean officials to prepare for a meeting between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il scheduled for Sept. 17.

Hitoshi Tanaka, head of the ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, plans to meet with North Korean officials in the Chinese capital, Japanese government officials said.

The officials added that the government has also decided to dispatch officials from the Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency to Pyongyang early this week to make the necessary preparations for the landmark trip, such as the route of the government aircraft bearing Koizumi.

These officials will leave Japan on Monday and arrive in the North Korean capital via Beijing, along with some additional staff from the Japanese embassy in China, on Tuesday, they said. The 14-member team will act as an ad hoc liaison office, they added.

Tanaka made no comments to reporters after arriving at the airport and the Japanese Embassy said there are no plans to brief the media on his meetings as they are to be conducted on an unofficial basis.

Tanaka is expected to discuss with North Korean officials the possibilities of securing a breakthrough in bilateral issues, including Tokyo’s allegations that at least 11 Japanese nationals were abducted to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s and Pyongyang’s demand for an apology and compensation for Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The visit follows the announcement of Koizumi’s visit to North Korea by the Japanese and North Korean governments the previous day.

Koizumi said Friday he and Kim “will meet to seek the possibility of resuming talks to normalize diplomatic ties.”

The issues have been major obstacles to normalizing relations between the two countries. The normalization talks have been suspended since October 2000.

Seoul calls for talks

SEOUL (Kyodo) South Korean officials have decided to call for a meeting of the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea ahead of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s upcoming visit to North Korea so that Seoul can reaffirm its desire to swiftly see ties normalized between Tokyo and Pyongyang, Yonhap News Agency reported Saturday.

According to the report, a meeting between Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and Choi Sung Hong, South Korea’s minister of foreign affairs and trade, is currently being considered for between Sept. 11 and Sept. 16.

However, the Yonhap report quoted senior South Korean officials as saying they will not call on Koizumi to urge North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to visit South Korea.

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