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Japan's top diplomat in South Korea to discuss North Korea, abductions

By Elizabeth Shim
Japan's top diplomat in South Korea to discuss North Korea, abductions
Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono could visit a South Korean memorial for the war dead, according to South Korean press reports. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

April 10 (UPI) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono arrived in South Korea late Tuesday to meet with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-hwa for discussions on North Korea.

Kono, who has previously met with Kang to discuss cooperation, is expected on Wednesday to request unabated pressure on Pyongyang and even assistance on the issue of abducted Japanese citizens, South Korean news service Newsis reported.

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But the focus will stay on North Korea denuclearization and the objective of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement, or CVID, of Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction, according to the report.

While Seoul and Tokyo are aligned on the issue of North Korea denuclearization, the two countries have often been at odds over historical issues, including policies addressing the issue of wartime "comfort women" enslaved in Japanese brothels during World War II.

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Important issues may be at stake for Japan, however.

Tokyo has been a relatively late adopter to the engagement process, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could be the last regional leader to meet with Kim Jong Un.

Yonhap reported Kono might also deliver a deeply significant diplomatic gesture with a visit to the Seoul National Cemetery, reserved for deceased veterans of the Korean War, the Vietnam War and fighters for Korean independence.

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South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk said there is a precedent for a potential Kono visit to the cemetery.

A Japanese diplomat visited the cemetery in 2004, Noh said.

A cemetery visit could improve ties between the two countries.

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In March 2015, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida canceled plans to pay tribute to South Korea's war dead, as bilateral relations declined between the two countries.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected to hold a summit with Kim Jong Un on April 27.

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