The parents of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted by North Korean agents in 1977, expressed hope Monday that Tokyo will use Pyongyang's economic fragility as leverage when they meet for high-level talks next week.

"I think North Korea has no choice but to change," Shigeru Yokota said during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo. "The economic sanctions are beginning to show results and making it hard for the North Korean government to feed its citizens. . . . (North Korea) will be asking the Japanese government for help."

In an apparent sign that the North is seeking better relations with Japan, Shigeru and Sakie Yokota were allowed to meet their 26-year-old granddaughter, Kim Eun Gyong, for the first time during a visit to Ulan Bator from March 10 to 14.

In light of the thaw, Shigeru Yokota urged Tokyo to add policies that might benefit North Korea rather than risk intransigence by relying solely on sanctions.

For the first time in 16 months, bureau chief-level talks between Japan and the North will be held in Beijing on Sunday and Monday. Because Pyongyang considers the abduction issue resolved, it's unclear what the response would be if, as expected, Japan raises the issue.

North Korea claims Megumi died in 1994. But DNA analysis confirmed the remains provided by Pyongyang were not hers.

The couple said the meeting with their granddaughter was no different from a regular family gathering and that they did not talk about politically sensitive matters, such as Megumi's whereabouts.

But Shigeru Yokota said he thought the meeting had a positive effect on relations.