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Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda urged Foreign Ministry officials Wednesday to press North Korea to come up with a date for a further round of bilateral talks.

The move apparently reflects the government’s irritation with North Korea over its failure to respond to Japan’s request for another meeting in mid- or late March.

The request was submitted on the sidelines of six-way talks concerning Pyongyang’s nuclear program in Beijing last month.

During the talks, North Korea said it would respond to Tokyo’s request “through an appropriate route.”

Hosoda made these remarks during a regular meeting focusing on the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.

Officials of related organs, including the Foreign Ministry and the National Police Agency, participated in the meeting.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima told a news conference that Japan has conveyed to North Korea that it is waiting for Pyongyang’s response. “The ball is in their court,” he said.

Meanwhile, another Foreign Ministry official said: “We want to press North Korea day after day. But then it would merely give North Korea the advantage of negotiation.”

Although Foreign Ministry officials have been cautious not to make provocative remarks until Pyongyang sets a date for the next bilateral talks, they now intend to send a stronger message.

“It is meaningless to simply hold talks if North Korea does not have a specific proposal,” said another Foreign Ministry executive, hinting that North Korea must agree to allow the families of five repatriated abductees to come to Japan as a first step.

The official also said that Japan hopes to intensify pressure so that North Korea will be determined to resolve the abduction issue through bilateral talks.

17 million yen raised A support group working on behalf of Japanese abducted to North Korea and their relatives has raised about 17 million yen in donations since October for the five repatriated abductees, group members said Tuesday.

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