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Japan creates North Korea division to address abductions, nuclear concerns

By Elizabeth Shim
Japan creates North Korea division to address abductions, nuclear concerns
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono (L) is expanding diplomatic efforts to monitor and negotiate with North Korea. File Pool Photo by Andy Wong/EPA-EFE

April 6 (UPI) -- Japan could be establishing a new line of communication to facilitate talks with North Korea.

Tokyo's foreign ministry said Friday a department that will focus on dialogue over North Korea's weapons program will be created, as other countries, including South Korea and the United States, prepare for summits with Kim Jong Un.

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"The Northeast Asia Division that deals with both North and South Korea will be separated into two divisions," Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters. "Division 1 will be in charge of South Korea and Division 2 will be in charge of North Korea."

Kono also said Japan must "strengthen solidarity" with South Korea to "cope with the recent situation."

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"The importance of strengthening a response to North Korea's nuclear and missile development, as well as the abduction issue, is increasing," the top Japanese diplomat said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to raise the issue of abductions during his April 18 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Japan believes North Korea abducted 17 people from Japanese coastal areas between 1977 and 1983. The victims were kidnapped for a variety of purposes, including teaching Japanese to North Korea spies. North Korea had admitted to abducting 13.

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The newly established Division 2 of the Northeast Asia Division will be in charge of collecting information on North Korea and pursuing ways of resolving the abduction issue through negotiations.

Kono said he had heard from local Japanese press reports Kim had suggested restarting the six-party talks, but said he would leave the decision on multilateral negotiations to the international community, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Newsis reported Friday that Kono also said the best way to approach North Korea is to carefully watch the outcome of the upcoming summits between North and South Korea, as well as with the United States.

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Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday the government is constantly "gathering and analyzing information" and that exchanges of information should continue with Japan's allies.

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