The first senior-level talks held between Japan and North Korea since August 2008 have resulted in an agreement to continue discussing Pyongyang's past abductions of Japanese nationals, despite the two sides' vastly differing agendas.

Although a resolution of the decades-old abductee dispute is still not in sight, Japan did at least manage to make "minimum progress" on the issue, a senior Foreign Ministry official said after Japanese and North Korean officials ended two days of talks Friday in Mongolia's frigid capital.

Another senior official at the ministry who was briefed on the meeting touted the outcome of the discussions, saying, "This is a step forward — no, two steps forward" because both sides agreed to continue dialogue over the North's abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s — a key stumbling block to establishing formal diplomatic relations.