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TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese man has been detained in North Korea, and government officials are trying to gather information on his safety, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Saturday.

The report, citing government sources, said that details of the middle-aged man's detainment were unclear, and that he may be suspected of spying.

It quoted one of the sources as saying that North Korea could use him as a bargaining chip in any future diplomatic talks.

Reuters calls to government officials were unanswered.

Japan, in addition to demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programmes, has also sought the return of abductees kidnapped during the 1970s and 1980s.

It has said it will not provide any economic aid to Pyongyang until the issue is resolved and normal diplomatic relations have been established.

(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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Reuters