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N Korea at crossroads

Abe tries intelligence-led diplomacy with Pyongyang

Secret talks in Vietnam seen as effort to break impasse on abductions

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a meeting at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Aug. 29. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

TOKYO -- The surprising news that a Japanese government official had secretly met a North Korean counterpart in Vietnam last month exposed a new approach in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's effort to make progress in talks with Pyongyang: leaning on spies.

Japan's top intelligence official Shigeru Kitamura, head of Japan's Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, met with Kim Song Hye, a senior North Korean official in charge of reunification, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Kim's department is an intelligence agency of the ruling Workers' Party that handles North-South relations, led by Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers' Party and leader Kim Jong Un's right-hand man.

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