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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rough Start for Talks on North Korea

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Japan and North Korea got off to a rough start in high-profile talks on Tuesday but agreed to keep talking about the two key issues of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and Japanese citizens abducted decades ago.

The two-day talks, the first full-scale negotiations between Tokyo and the reclusive communist state in two years, come as international pressure mounts on Pyongyang to scrap a nuclear arms program it has pursued in violation of a 1994 agreement.

Asked to comment on the first day of talks, Japan's top negotiator, Katsunari Suzuki, said: "Not much progress."

The two historic foes agreed last month to restart stalled talks on forging diplomatic relations when Koizumi obtained a surprise admission from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that Pyongyang's agents had kidnapped Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies.

The situation has since been complicated, however, by the unpredictable communist state's admission to U.S. officials that it has a nuclear weapons program, in violation of a 1994 agreement with Washington.

Japan has made clear that it will not normalize ties with North Korea or give it much sought-after economic aid unless Pyongyang abandons its nuclear weapons program.

Japanese, U.S. and South Korean leaders agreed in meetings in Mexico on Saturday to demand that Pyongyang dismantle its nuclear weapons program in a "prompt and verifiable manner."

Koizumi, U.S. President George W. Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung did not spell out the consequences of inaction. But a subsequent statement by Pacific Rim leaders made it clear that Pyongyang risks losing out on the economic benefits of regional cooperation if it fails to comply.

Pyongyang wants to negotiate chiefly with the United States on the nuclear issue -- a stance it stressed Tuesday.

The North Korean negotiators also repeated a demand for a nonaggression pact with Washington as a condition for abandoning its nuclear weapons program, the Japanese official said.