Korea, US closely coordinating for summits with N. Korea

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Japan's foreign minister asked his South Korean counterpart on Wednesday for the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s to be put on the agenda at an upcoming inter-Korean summit, according to the Japanese government.

Former U.S. officials are concerned that Seoul would get too far ahead in engaging Pyongyang at the inter-Korea summit and offer incentives such as economic and humanitarian aid and the easing of sanctions imposed against North Korea.

Diplomatic sources said Kono is anxious that Japan could be left out of talks on the Korean Peninsula.

However, in a lecture at a South Korean university on April 9, a day before Kono arrived in Seoul, Kang said she was not satisfied with the bilateral agreement.

Japan has said North Korea abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens to train agents in the Japanese language and culture to spy on South Korea.

Although Seoul and Tokyo present a united front in tackling North Korea's nuclear issue, their bilateral relations have frayed in recent months over historical matters, including the "comfort women" issue and Japan's claims to South Korea's eastern islets of Dokdo.

Kono arrived in South Korea late on Tuesday, on his first visit to the country since taking the post in August previous year.

Kono expressed respect for South Korea's diplomatic efforts, and said he hopes to strengthen Japan's partnership with the country and trilateral ties of the 2 and the United States in working to denuclearize the North.

Another diplomat who sat in on the discussions added that Kono called for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) and the "complete resolution to North Korean nuclear and missile problem".

Kono's trip marked the first of its kind by a Japanese foreign minister since December 2015. "The Moon and Kim summit should be getting ready for the denuclearization talks but not actually doing it for themselves".

While the South Korean government continues to hold expectations that Tokyo will offer a honest apology, it has stopped short of seeking a renegotiation or review of the bilateral agreement.

After his meetings, Kono tried to put a positive spin, telling reporters, "It is a fact that hard issues remain in our ties with South Korea, but that does not mean that those ties can not deepen".

Moon said last month that Japan cannot unilaterally declare the wartime issue "over", while Japan says any attempt to modify or scrap the deal, signed by Moon's predecessor Park Geun-Hye, could hurt relations.