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N. Korea's Kim 'notes' Japan's offer of talks, Xi tells Abe

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has "taken note" of Abe's offer to hold a bilateral meeting without preconditions, a diplomatic source said Thursday.

Xi revealed Kim's acknowledgment during talks with Abe last Thursday on the fringes of a Group of 20 summit in Osaka, the source said.

Abe said in May that he is willing to hold a no-strings-attached meeting with Kim, reversing his previous position that any encounter between the leaders would need to yield progress on the longstanding issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

While North Korea has publicly shot down the offer -- an official called it the "height of brazen-facedness" -- it is the first clear indication of a reaction from Kim himself.

Xi said he discussed the matter with Kim during a visit to Pyongyang ahead of the G-20 summit, the source said.

Japan officially lists 17 victims of abduction, five of whom were repatriated in 2002, and suspects North Korea's involvement in many other disappearances.

Abe has pledged to resolve the issue during his time in office, though Japan has taken a backseat to denuclearization talks between North Korea and the United States.

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