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International relations

Japan renews call for South Korea to press North on abductions

Tokyo worries its interests will be ignored when Moon and Trump meet Kim

SEOUL -- Japan on Wednesday applied fresh pressure on South Korea to raise the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals at an upcoming inter-Korean summit.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono made the request to his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, while visiting Seoul. Japan wants its neighbor to help address the kidnappings, which took place in the 1970s and 1980s, while also pressing the North over its nuclear and missile programs. 

Japanese officials did not say how Kang responded to the request. Kono made the same appeal on the abductions when he met with Kang in Washington on March 17.

"We want to closely cooperate with South Korea toward the goal of realizing denuclearization in North Korea," Kono told Kang at their latest meeting. The South Korean foreign minister expressed a similar intention: "We want to work with Japan to solve North Korean issues in a peaceful manner, building peace on the Korean Peninsula."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 27. Kim is then expected to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump sometime in May or early June. 

Kono's request reflects Tokyo's concern that the abductions and its other interests will be pushed to the back burner. Along with denuclearization, Japan is especially wary of North Korea's arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles, which can reach its shores.

The Japanese foreign minister was to meet with Moon later on Wednesday.

Back when he met Kang in March, Kang told reporters that it was "difficult to say" what would be on the agenda at the Moon-Kim summit.

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