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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea seeks new dialogue on Japan abductions

Kim Jong Un said to want another chance to explain findings

Families of victims abducted by North Korea stand with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump during a November 2017 gathering in Tokyo.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly wants to present findings again on decades-old abductions of Japanese nationals whose cases Pyongyang had declared closed -- a claim that Tokyo rejects.

The North has reached out to Japan in hopes that it will accept the findings and resolve the issue once and for all, according to Choi Sung-yong, who heads an organization for South Korean abduction victims.

Kim's initiative came after the June summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Choi said on Thursday, citing a Pyongyang source with knowledge of the North Korean leadership.

Japan has identified 17 citizens it says were kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s. Five returned home in 2002 after a visit to Pyongyang by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. North Korea has insisted that the rest are dead -- including Megumi Yokota, who became the poster child for the abductions -- or had never entered the country.

Tokyo has rejected these conclusions, citing a lack of hard evidence.

Pyongyang agreed to a new, broader investigation at a 2014 meeting with Japanese officials in Stockholm. But it abandoned the effort in 2016 over sanctions imposed by Japan in response to a North Korean missile launch.

The new attempt at an explanation that the North is reportedly seeking appears to be based on the Stockholm agreement, which also covered presumed abductees and other missing Japanese people.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that he wants to resolve the abduction issue by reopening dialogue with North Korea and that he is open to meeting with Kim. He asked both Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to raise the matter at their separate summits with the North Korean leader.

North Korea released three Americans held there in May, ahead of the Singapore summit. Pyongyang has also said it would return the remains of American troops killed in the Korean War.

Instead of meeting on or around Thursday on this issue, as agreed when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited last week, the North Koreans instead offered to talk on Sunday, according to the State Department.

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