• Kyodo

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Japan is making arrangements with North Korea for talks with the two nations’ top diplomats on the sidelines of a regional security forum scheduled for Thursday in Malaysia, Japanese government sources said Friday.

By arranging talks between Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his North Korean counterpart, Ri Su Yong, on the day of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo hopes to prod Pyongyang to report by September findings of its latest probe into the fates of Japanese nationals abducted decades ago, the sources said.

The push for high-level talks are in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s instructions calling for more progress on the long-stalled abduction issue, the sources added.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum began in 1994 to promote confidence-building and preventive diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region.

It involves ASEAN and its dialogue partners, which includes Japan, North Korea and the United States, and is the only multilateral ministerial meeting that North Korea participates in.

In return for Tokyo’s lifting of some unilateral sanctions, Pyongyang launched the comprehensive probe on July 4 of last year that includes a “reinvestigation” into 12 Japanese that the North recognizes as abductees who are still missing.

Last month, however, the North said it needed more time to complete the investigation. Pyongyang’s delay in reporting its findings has sparked frustration among abduction victims’ families, many of whom are aging and want to see the abduction issue settled as soon as possible.