Japan, N Korea talks extended as abductions weigh

This week`s meetings have been described as preliminary discussions to pave the way for talks in the future.

Beijing: The first government-to-government talks between Japan and North Korea in four years have been extended for a day in a sign that the sides hope for progress despite being deadlocked over whether to discuss the North`s kidnapping of Japanese citizens.

Japan`s Kyodo news agency reported the two sides will meet again Friday for a third day of discussions.

The sides met at the North Korean embassy in Beijing today for two hours, Kyodo said. The start of today`s discussions was delayed but Kyodo cited an unidentified Japanese foreign ministry source as saying that despite the delay, the talks "have not broken down."

This week`s meetings have been described as preliminary discussions to pave the way for talks in the future covering a broader agenda.

Discussions between Tokyo and Pyongyang have been frozen since August 2008 because of animosity over past frictions and disputes over the North`s nuclear program and its kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.

Kyodo cited North Korean representative Ryu Song Il as telling reporters: "I will talk (about our meeting) tomorrow after it is over." He added that the two sides are "waiting respectively for instructions" from their capitals, Kyodo reported.

The countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.

Japan wants the emotional kidnapping issue included on any agenda for future talks. North Korea has admitted abducting 13 Japanese nationals and using them to train spies.

It pledged in the 2008 talks to reinvestigate the abductions, but has not done so.
South Korean analysts have said North Korea is using the talks to improve ties with Japan because it urgently needs economic help, and probably wants both investments and compensation for Tokyo`s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-1945.

The talks were scheduled after the two nations` Red Cross societies met in Beijing earlier this month to discuss the repatriation of the remains of Japanese soldiers, and come as a Japanese delegation was in North Korea looking for the remains of relatives who died there during the closing stages of World War II.

The group had been due to fly to Chongjin, in the northeastern corner of North Korea, today. Chongjin is one of five locations in the country which North Korean authorities have identified as burial sites for Japanese who lived here during colonial times. The group will be in North Korea until September 6.


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