Japan said on Thursday it would take up the issue of North Korea’s suspected development of biological and chemical weapons in future talks on establishing diplomatic ties between the historic foes.

In the latest round of full-scale talks in Malaysia last month, Japan pressed Pyongyang to scrap a nuclear weapons program which North Korean officials had admitted to James Kelly, the top U.S. negotiator for North Korea.

Quoting an unspecified Japanese government official, Japanese media said Thursday that North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju had told Kelly that Pyongyang possessed biological as well as chemical weapons.

Japan’s top government spokesman, Yasuo Fukuda, declined to confirm the report Thursday but quoted Kelly as saying that North Korea had told the United States that it had “more powerful” weapons than nuclear arms.

“It has long been suggested that North Korea possesses such weapons, and we have long been concerned about North Korea’s development of weapons of mass destruction,” Fukuda told reporters.

Fukuda said Japan would take up the issue in the next round of talks on forging diplomatic ties. But it remained unclear when the two countries would meet again.

Japan and North Korea remain far apart over key issues of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents and Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, in talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in September, admitted that Pyongyang agents had abducted 13 Japanese during the 1970s and 1980s.

The unexpected admission cleared the way for the two nations to resume talks on normalizing ties. But bickering over the abductees issue and North Korea’s subsequent confession that it was pursuing the nuclear arms program, in violation of a 1994 pact with Washington, have snarled the negotiations.

The five surviving abductees are in Japan and it is unclear when or where they will be reunited with their children still in Pyongyang.

Many Japanese are dubious of Pyongyang’s statement that eight of the 13 abductees died from illness, accident or suicide.

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