Japan, N Korea hold first bilateral talks since 2008

For the first time in four years, Japan and North Korea held intergovernmental discussions.

Updated: Aug 29, 2012, 16:42 PM IST

Beijing: For the first time in four years, Japan and North Korea held intergovernmental discussions here Wednesday, raising expectations that the nations -- deeply suspicious of each other -- would be able to resolve some of their disputes.

Diplomats of the two nations met at the working-level meeting in here and discussed the issue of retrieving the remains of Japanese soldiers who died in northern part of the Korean Peninsula during World War II.

The two-day meeting in Beijing is widely being looked upon as an opportunity for Tokyo to reopen talks on the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents decades ago, a major hurdle in bilateral ties.

In 2002, North Korea had admitted that its agents had kidnapped several of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies in their language and culture. Five of the abductees had been released and returned to Japan later.

However, Tokyo believes that Pyongyang had not completely been honest on the fate of abducted Japanese citizens and therefore continues to demand answers.

Japan claims that 17 nationals, including five who were repatriated, were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

Both the nations had agreed on a reinvestigation in 2008, but North Korea failed to be cooperative.

Japan is also suspicious about North Korea`s past ballistic missile tests as well as its underground nuclear experiments in 2006 and 2009.

On the other hand, North Korea has remained apprehensive about Japan`s military alliance with the US the treatment of ethnic Koreans in Japan.

In the talks, Japan is being represented by Director of the Northeast Asia Division (Foreign Ministry) Keiichi Ono and North Korea by Ryu Song Il, a Foreign Ministry official dealing with Japan affairs was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

The meeting is also the first between the two countries under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his father Kim Jong Il last December, and the government Democratic Party of Japan that came in power in 2009.