PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) – Japanese and North Korean officials held talks in Pyongyang for the first time in 10 years Tuesday, mee-ting to assess progress into North Korea’s investigation into the fates of Japanese citizens who were ab-ducted in the 1970s and ‘80s.
The abduction issue has long been a major obstacle in the frosty ties between the two nations, which have no formal diplomatic
The Japanese delegation, led by Junichi Ihara, head of the Asia and Oceania affairs bureau at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is to stay in North Korea for four days.
After years of denial, North Korea acknowledged in an unprecedented 2002 summit between Kim Jong Il and then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that its agents had kid-napped 13 Japanese, mainly to train spies in Japanese language and culture. It allowed five of them to re-turn to Japan that year, but said the others had died.
Japan believes hundreds more may have been abducted and some may still be alive.
In what was seen as a significant breakthrough after years of stale-mate, North Korea agreed in May to launch a new probe into the abductions. In exchange, Japan agreed to ease some unilateral sanctions on North Korea, though it continues to enforce sanctions backed by the United Nations over North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile programmes.
But progress in North Korea’s re-investigation has been slower than Tokyo had hoped.
In September, Ihara and his North Korean counterpart, Song Il Ho, held a meeting in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang. Japan was hoping then to receive a prelimina-ry report on the investigation, but none was presented.