N. Korea, Japan talks grind along

North Korea and Japan on Monday focused on diplomatic ties despite making little progress in high-level talks on Tokyo's key condition for opening the ties: a complete account of Pyongyang's past abductions of Japanese citizens.

N. Korea, Japan talks grind along

Envoys from the two sides opened their talks Sunday in a hotel meeting room in the Chinese capital, part of the first high-level contact in three years aimed at normalizing relations. The discussions run through Tuesday, when the session will focus on the North's nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea on Sunday said significant differences remained over the abduction issue, which Japan has said is key to opening diplomatic relations between the two sides.

"There are big differences of opinion and stance on the issue," Kim Chol Ho, the North's delegate, told reporters after about nine hours of discussions but did not elaborate.

"We also told (Japan) how much sincerity and effort we've put into resolving the issue and we both agreed to continue to talk," he said.

In a separate briefing, Japan's envoy, Kunio Umeda, said "the solution of the abduction issue was extremely important to the normalization of ties."

In 2002, North Korea admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens and subsequently released five of them, saying the other eight had died. Tokyo, however, still wants evidence of the deaths and for North Korea to fully investigate the cases of other suspected abductees who were kidnapped by Northern agents in the 1970s and '80s.

In return, the impoverished North has said it wants reparations for Japan's colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45.

Umeda and Kim said the two sides also discussed whether those involved in the kidnappings would be brought to justice but no resolution was made.

"This is something we have to talk more about," Kim said.

The first half of the day's meetings were focused on listening to Japan's case, Kim said, while the afternoon was spent on North Korea's response.

The last meetings were held in 2002 in Malaysia but the chief North Korean delegate, Song Il Ho, complained of lack of progress since, saying that relations had been moving "toward the path of deterioration."

Host China has been trying to restart six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up nuclear development. Beijing reportedly has proposed meeting again as early as February 6, but the North hasn't responded.

Other participants are Japan, the United States, South Korea and Russia.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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