Red Cross and government officials from North Korea and Japan ended their first day of talks on Monday during which they agreed to continue negotiations on the possible repatriation of the remains of Japanese nationals buried in the North, Pyongyang's chief delegate said.
Ri Ho-rim, secretary general of the North's Red Cross Society who heads the Pyongyang delegation, described Monday's talks in Shenyang, a major city in northeastern China, as "productive." He added that the talks were underway "in a serious mood."
The talks, the first of their kind since August 2012, are expected to last until Wednesday, Ri told reporters when he arrived in Shenyang on Saturday. Diplomats from the two nations also attended the talks.
"Both North Korean and Japanese sides reached common ground that we need to continue to meet in the future to resolve the issue of the remains of Japanese," Ri told reporters after ending six hours of talks.
This week's talks focused on the possible return of the remains of Japanese who died in the communist country during World War II.
"This round of talks becomes more important as government officials from the two nations attended," Ri said. "The talks were underway in a serious mood and were productive."
The four-member North Korean delegation includes two North Korean diplomats handling Japanese affairs in the foreign ministry, which spawned speculation that some additional issues may be discussed at the meeting.
Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910-45. It normalized relations with South Korea in 1965 but has no formal diplomatic relations with the North.
Japan sent Keiichi Ono, chief of its Northeast Asia division, to the talks. The Japanese delegation is led by Osamu Tasaka, director general of the International Department at the Japanese Red Cross.
A similar Red Cross contact between North Korea and Japan in
2012 led to a government-level meeting later that year. A follow-up meeting, scheduled to be held a month later, was called off after Pyongyang announced a plan to launch a long-range rocket. (Yonhap)