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N Korea at crossroads

Japan and North Korea foreign ministers hold 1st sit-down in 3 years

Taro Kono refuses to disclose whether he laid groundwork for Abe-Kim summit

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, met for about 20 minutes with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, this week in New York. (Ri photo from Reuters)

NEW YORK -- Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Wednesday sat down with his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, at the United Nation headquarters, according to Kono.

It was the first time in three years that the countries' foreign ministers held a nonstanding meeting. The last time this happened came in Malaysia, in August 2015, when Japan's Fumio Kishida and North Korea's Ri Su Yong met.

Kono told reporters that "the details of the meeting cannot be disclosed." Discussion topics are believed to have included the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

The meeting lasted about 20 minutes.

Kono also had a short chat with Ri last month while the men were attending the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore.

Earlier this week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the U.N. General Assembly that he is ready to meet face to face with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un so the two can resolve the abduction issue and work on normalizing diplomatic ties.

Kono declined to comment on whether his meeting with Ri Yong Ho will lead to an Abe-Kim summit.

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