TOKYO Japan has started looking into resuming inter-governmental talks with North Korea after a surprise visit to Pyongyang by an aide to Japan's prime minister, the Asahi Shimbun and other newspapers said on Wednesday.
Such talks, intended to discuss North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens decades ago and other issues, were last held in November 2012, but have been halted due to the North's missile launch in December and nuclear test in February.
"The Abe government on (May) 21st started preparatory work to restart inter-governmental negotiations with North Korea," the Asahi said, without citing sources.
Through the inter-governmental talks, Japan aims to not only solve the abduction issue but also address North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, the Asahi said.
Isao Iijima's visit last week to the North Korean capital and his talks with senior officials there irritated South Korea and prompted Glyn Davies, a U.S. envoy for North Korea, to stress the importance of close coordination among countries.
Davies said he had received no advance notice of Iijima's trip, details of which have not been made public.
Asked about the negative responses to Iijima's visit to North Korea, Abe told parliament on Monday that Japan must take leadership in solving the abduction problem.
Japan's ties with North Korea have long been fraught due to Pyongyang's bitterness over Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula, Tokyo's worries about North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, and Japanese anger over the abduction of its citizens by North Korean agents decades ago.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Michael Perry)