TOKYO, March 20 (KUNA) -- Japanese and North Korean diplomats have agreed to work toward the resumption of formal intergovernmental talks for the first time since November 2012, at an early date, Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported Thursday from the northeastern Chinese city Shenyang, citing a Japanese official.
If resumed, this would also be the first time for such dialogue since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un inherited power after the death of his late father in December 2012. The agreement was reached during informal talks between the diplomats on the sidelines of a two-day meeting of the countries' Red Cross societies from Wednesday in Shenyang, according to the official.
Keiichi Ono, director of the Northeast Asia Division of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and Ryu Song-il, chief of the Japanese affairs section at the North Korean Foreign Ministry agreed to aim for the restart "as soon as possible" to address "a range of issues," the official was quoted as saying. "Our goal is to properly settle outstanding issues of both sides and I believe it is important that relations between the two countries can be improved soon, " Ryu told reporters.
In a meeting in Mongolia in November 2012, Japanese and North Korean officials agreed to hold another round of negotiations at a director-general level the following month in Beijing. But Japan put it off in the wake of North Korea's move to launch an "earth observation satellite," which was seen by other countries as a covert test of long-range missile technology in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. For Japan, the abduction issue remains a major obstacle to normalizing bilateral relations with North Korea.
North Korea admitted in 2002 to having abducted 13 Japanese nationals. While five of them were later repatriated to Japan, North Korea has claimed the remaining eight are dead. Japan has insisted North Korea has yet to provide credible evidence regarding the fate of the eight abductees. But North Korea has repeatedly said that the issue has already been "settled".
The Japanese government has also identified 17 Japanese nationals as victims of North Korea's abductions and believes there are more cases.(end) mk.wsa KUNA 201121 Mar 14NNNN