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Abe shakes hands, chats with N. Korea's ceremonial leader Kim

US Vice President Mike Pence, second from bottom right, sits between second lady Karen Pence, third from bottom left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Feb. 9, 2018. Seated behind Pence are Kim Yong Nam, third from top right, president of the Presidium of North Korean Parliament, and Kim Yo Jong, second from top right, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shook hands and briefly spoke with North Korea's ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam during a reception dinner ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, South Korea's presidential office said Friday.

    The details of the conversation between Abe and Kim were not known. Under the current administration, Abe's adviser Isao Iijima met with Kim, North Korea's No. 2, back in May 2013.

    It is rare for Japan's prime minister to communicate with a high-ranking official from North Korea's Workers' Party. The last time a Japanese prime minister visited North Korea was in 2004.

    Abe is visiting South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Games and hold talks with South Korean President Moon Jae In.

    Kim, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, is leading North Korea's delegation to the Olympics. North Korea's participation in the event has been viewed as a sign of thawing relations between the two Koreas.

    Abe has stressed the importance of trilateral cooperation involving the United States to address the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs.

    His administration is also seeking to secure the return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago.


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