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Japan and North Korea may hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the planned six-nation meeting over North Korea’s nuclear threat, in order to discuss Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda hinted Thursday.

Japan, the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and North Korea will hold a meeting, probably in Beijing, later this month or in early September.

“The abduction problem is an issue between Japan and North Korea,” Fukuda told a news conference. “So if we are to discuss details, a bilateral meeting will be necessary.”

Although the exact schedule of the six-way talks has yet to be fixed, Fukuda said a bilateral meeting “might happen.”

If such a meeting occurs, Tokyo will urge North Korea to let the children of the five abductees who returned home in October to come to Japan as soon as possible, he said.

The bilateral meeting, however, would be treated as unofficial talks, as Japan has set the release of the abductees’ kin left behind in the North as a condition for resuming official negotiations on normalizing bilateral relations.

U.S. to back Japan

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The United States promised Wednesday to back Japan in urging North Korea to resolve the issue of abducted Japanese nationals during upcoming six-way talks, according to Toshimitsu Motegi, visiting senior vice Foreign Minister.

Speaking to reporters after talks with senior U.S. officials, Motegi said he agreed to hold an informal senior working-level meeting where Japan, South Korea and the U.S. may coordinate their policies before the six-nation talks. “We want to try to come up with a unified message,” Motegi said, indicating the three nations will work to compile a comprehensive package of proposals on outstanding issues.

During a meeting with James Kelly, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Motegi reportedly said that Japan wants to take up the abductions issue at the six-nation talks.

Motegi said Kelly voiced support for this position and promised to back Japan.

The six nations — China, Japan, South and North Korea, Russia and the U.S. — are arranging to meet in Beijing in late August or early September to discuss the North’s nuclear threat.