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Japan and North Korea are considering whether Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi can visit Pyongyang to pick up the relatives of Japanese abductees, in an effort to reach a breakthrough on the abduction issue, informed sources said Saturday.

The two countries are expected to resume bilateral talks soon to fix a date for a Koizumi visit to the North Korean capital, they said, adding that expectations of a dramatic development on the abduction issue are growing among government officials.

The Japanese side unofficially proposed a visit by Koizumi during bilateral talks Tuesday and Wednesday in Beijing, the sources said. The North Korean officials responded that they would take it back to their government for further consideration.

Such a trip can be realized after North Korea gives assurance that it will allow the relatives of the five abductees to go to Japan, they said.

At the Beijing meeting, the two countries also exchanged views over Japan’s humanitarian aid to the North and the process of resuming diplomatic normalization talks, they said.

The five abductees were kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978 and were finally allowed to return to Japan in October 2002.

Their return came a month after Koizumi made a landmark trip to Pyongyang for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The children of the five and the American husband of one of them still remain in North Korea.

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