Japan wants ‘concrete’ N. Korea steps before talks

Japan’s foreign minister on Thursday called for renewed dialogue on the divided Korean peninsula, but said the North should first take "concrete actions" to lower tensions.

"The nuclear and missile development issue of DPRK (North Korea) is a cause for major concern," Seiji Maehara said in a speech to a Washington think tank before meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"What is most important is that a North Korea-South Korea dialogue be opened up," Maehara said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But, North Korea "needs to first take concrete actions," he said, without providing further details.

Speaking through a translator during a question-and-answer session, Maehara said North Korea "these days is escalating the level of its provocation against the region and the international community."

He referred to the sinking of a South Korean warship last May, as well as the North’s deadly shelling of a South Korean border island in November that sparked some of the worst saber-rattling since the 1950-1953 war.

He also cited a long-running dispute with Pyongyang over Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean spies in the 1970s and 80s. The kidnap victims were forced to train Pyongyang’s secret agents in Japanese language and culture.

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