N Korea and Japan to talk after four years

Delegations from Tokyo and Pyongyang to meet in China this month to discuss roadmap for "restoring normal relations".

    N Korea and Japan to talk after four years
    Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura said the talks would focus on 'restoring normal relations' [AP]

    Japan and North Korea are due to hold intergovernmental talks in China later this month, the first face-to-face meeting between the sides in four years, the Japanese government has announced.

    "There are several issues between Japan and North Korea and after having discussions we have decided to hold inter-governmental talks soon," Osamu Fujimura, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, told reporters on Tuesday.

    A senior Japanese bureaucrat will lead the delegation for the meeting in Beijing, which comes after Red Cross societies from both sides met to discuss the repatriation of remains from Japan's occupation of the peninsula.

    Representatives from both governments will meet in the Chinese capital on August 29 to hash out the agenda for future meetings.

    "We have been working based on the principle of settling the unfortunate past and on restoring normal relations," he said.

    Fujimura said that the South Korean and United States governments had been informed about the meeting.

    Deal breakdown

    The talks would signal a slight thawing in relations between the two countries, and would also be among the first major diplomatic moves made under North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un.

    Many in the international community are keen for Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks on denuclearisation that it abandoned in December 2008.

    The talks, which group the two Koreas, the US, Japan, Russia and China, envisage a peace treaty and other benefits if the North scraps its atomic weapons programme.

    On April 13, North Korea launched a long-range rocket, heightening regional tensions and sinking a deal reached with the US on February 29.

    Under that agreement, North Korea had agreed to freeze uranium enrichment and suspend nuclear and missiles tests, while the US promised 240,000 tonnes of food aid.

    The US and its allies condemned the rocket launch as a disguised missile test, while North Korea said that it's only aim was to put a satellite into orbit.

    The rocket failed soon after takeoff.

    Frosty relations

    The last meeting between Japan and North Korea came in 2008, when the Japanese foreign ministry said the North had agreed to reopen investigations into the fate of Japanese nationals abducted in that country.

    The issue ignites strong feelings in Japan, where many feel Pyongyang's 2002 admission that the abductions were part of espionage efforts was not the whole story and that more missing Japanese met their fate in North Korea after being kidnapped in the 1970s or 1980s.

    Fujimura said Japan wanted to discuss the kidnap issue with North Korea and would be bringing it up at the August 29 meeting.

    Tuesday's announcement came after a seemingly productive meeting between Red Cross societies last week, their first in a decade, in which they talked about the repatriation of remains of those who died in the North during and immediately after World War II.

    Japan occupied the Korean peninsula from 1910 until 1945, and about 34,600 Japanese died in what is now North Korea after Soviet troops entered at the end of the war, according to the Japanese welfare ministry.

    The remains of about 13,000 Japanese have been repatriated but around 21,000 others are believed to be buried in the North.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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