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Japan, S. Korea aim for talks with N. Korea to proceed at same time

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, shakes hands with South Korea's National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon prior to their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, on Sept. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, Pool)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea's intelligence agency chief agreed Monday that Tokyo and Pyongyang should launch talks to take place as the United States and South Korea engage in their own respective dialogues with North Korea.

After meeting with Abe, Suh Hoon, chief of South Korea's National Intelligence Service, said to reporters he told the prime minister that the mood surrounding North Korea's denuclearization has been "improving" after small twists and turns. Suh was one of the envoys who met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang last week.

The intelligence agency chief briefed Abe "in detail" on the outcome of the South Korean delegation's recent visit to the North, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Abe shared Suh's view that it would be "most desirable" for solving various issues if bilateral talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang follow the North's ongoing dialogues with Seoul and Washington, the South Korean official told reporters.

The prime minister has expressed willingness to hold direct talks with North Korea in the hope of making a breakthrough in resolving the long-standing issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North in the 1970s and 1980s.

During Monday's meeting at the prime minister's office, Abe and Suh confirmed the two countries will cooperate toward resolving the abduction issue.

Last Wednesday, Kim confirmed his commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during his meeting with the South Korean delegation and vowed to continue cooperation with the United States. The two Koreas are planning to hold a summit on Sept. 18-20.

Abe expressed hope that inter-Korean dialogue, including what will be the third summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In, will lead to concrete action by North Korea so that the U.S.-North Korea agreement on denuclearization will be implemented, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

"President Moon believes Prime Minister Abe's role is important in achieving a denuclearized and peaceful peninsula," Suh told Abe through a translator at the meeting as he called for closer bilateral coordination. The outset of their talks was open to the press.

Nearly three months after the unprecedented U.S.-North Korea summit in June, the denuclearization talks are increasingly seen as having made little progress.

In his meeting with the South Korean envoys, Kim voiced hope that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will take place during U.S. President Donald Trump's current term in office through January 2021, according to Seoul.

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