• Kyodo

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North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan on Wednesday told Japan in a bilateral meeting that he would do his utmost to see Pyongyang resume bilateral negotiations with Tokyo, Japanese officials said.

Kim made the remark after Kenichiro Sasae, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, urged Pyongyang during a 75-minute meeting to resume full-fledged bilateral talks on the abduction and other contentious issues, the officials said.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the six-nation talks in Beijing on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said in Tokyo the fact that the meeting had taken place marked “a certain degree of progress” as North Korea previously had been reluctant to talk with Japan.

Sasae and Kim, who head their delegations at the multilateral talks, last met Aug. 7 when the fourth round of six-way negotiations broke for a recess.

Sasae said in the August meeting that all remaining Japanese abductees should be returned to Japan, the details of what happened to them should be made clear, and those involved in the abductions should be handed over to Japan. Kim replied that he would convey the request to Pyongyang.

In Wednesday’s talks, Sasae again stated Japan’s intention to seek comprehensive resolution of contentious issues, including the abductions, Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and its ballistic-missile program, before normalizing bilateral ties in line with the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Diplomatic exchanges between Japan and North Korea have been stalled due to disputes over the abduction issue. The two nations are divided on the number of people abducted and the fates of some of them.

Japan and North Korea held bilateral talks on the abductions in November in Pyongyang, but no full-fledged negotiations have been held since.

On Wednesday, Kim repeated Pyongyang’s position that it has a right to engage in peaceful nuclear activities, but Sasae responded that the assertion was unacceptable.

There have been no signs of a breakthrough in the multilateral talks as Pyongyang insists on its right to nuclear programs for civilian use.

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