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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi may invite North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to Japan when he visits Pyongyang on Sept. 17, a top government spokesman said Wednesday.

The invitation will depend on whether Koizumi sees any developments in his meeting with Kim, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said, declining to comment further on the possibility.

However, a senior Foreign Ministry official last week flatly denied the possibility of any such invitation.

“We do not need reciprocity or formalities in this case,” said the official, requesting anonymity. “We must concentrate on resolving the issues. We do not have the leisure to think about reciprocating visits with a country with which we do not have a diplomatic relationship.”

Progress expected

JOHANNESBURG (Kyodo) Tokyo expects progress in efforts to learn of the fate of 11 allegedly abducted Japanese during the Japan-North Korea summit on Sept. 17, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi suggested Tuesday.

“We can’t bypass the alleged abduction issue as we talk about normalizing bilateral ties,” Kawaguchi told reporters in Johannesburg, where she is attending the U.N. summit on the environment and development. “Japan will make a final decision on whether to press ahead (on diplomatic relations) by monitoring the North Korean moves, but the other side also knows the abduction issue is important.”

She noted, however, that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has not bet his political future on whether the abduction issue can be resolved during the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Earlier, it was reported that Koizumi said he has staked his political life on achieving a breakthrough on the issue when meeting with Kim. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, however, later denied the prime minister ever said this.

Regarding her visit to China beginning Sunday, Kawaguchi said: “Sino-Japanese relations shouldn’t be regarded merely as bilateral relations. It’s also important to look in terms of how the two countries can cooperate with each other in the global framework.”

She stressed her plan to discuss with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan not just bilateral issues, such as Koizumi’s visits to a contentious war shrine in Tokyo, but also a host of other subjects.

Kawaguchi also said she hopes to strengthen bilateral ties in a wide range of areas during her visit planned to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Japan and China.

Mother ends visit

NIIGATA (Kyodo) Tomoe Terakoshi returned to Japan from North Korea early Wednesday after meeting her son, Takeshi, 52, whom she described as overjoyed at the possibility of visiting Japan for the first time in nearly 40 years.

“(He) was very pleased” with the prospect of a possible homecoming visit, Terakoshi, 71, told reporters at Niigata port on the Sea of Japan coast after arriving by freighter from North Korea, her 15th trip to the North, to see her son in Pyongyang.

She made the remark in response to her son’s reaction to news of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Sept. 17 Pyongyang visit for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Takeshi disappeared while fishing in the Sea of Japan in 1963 and now lives in Pyongyang. Years later, Terakoshi’s husband moved to North Korea to be with his son and family.

His mother left Niigata for North Korea on Aug. 21, two days after her son told visiting Japanese officials in the North Korean capital that he is thinking about making a homecoming visit.

He disappeared with his uncle while fishing in the Sea of Japan in May 1963. In 1997, Takeshi said through the North Korean media that the boat he and his uncle were fishing on had been wrecked and a North Korean fishing boat rescued them.

The two men later acquired North Korean citizenship. The uncle died in North Korea.

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