Japan, N Korea to resume talks

Japan and North Korea are making final preparations for the resumption of bilateral talks, stalled since late last year.

    Koizumi (L) greeted in one of his two visits to North Korea

    The two countries agreed late last month to reopen talks to tackle a range of topics, including North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and abduction of Japanese citizens decades ago, the Kyodo news agency reported on Monday.
       
    Kyodo quoted Japanese and North Korean sources as saying  the two sides were involved in final coordination to hold the talks in Beijing early next month, although no dates were given. 
           
    "We have been asking to hold talks and therefore we hope they will reply soon," Japan's top government spokesman, Hiroyuki Hosoda said.

    "Basically, no matter when and where the talks will be held, we will welcome them."
       
    The next round of six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear arms programme is expected to be held in early November as well, although no date has been set.

    Those talks also involve China, Russia, South Korea and the United States. 

    Dispute
      
    Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has twice visited North Korea in an effort to solve a bitter dispute over Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang's agents in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies.
       
    North Korea has admitted abducting 13 people, five of whom have returned to Japan with their children.

    Pyongyang says the other eight are dead.
       
    Japan has been pressing for further information on the eight and another three who Tokyo says were also kidnapped.
       
    Resolution of the problem has been a major barrier to normalising relations.
       
    Japan insists the issue must be cleared up before diplomatic ties can be established.

    North Korea says the matter is closed, but last month, during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the last round of six-party talks, it told Japan it was considering demands on the issue.
       
    The previous round of bilateral talks was held in November 2004 in North Korea, but ended without success.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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