N. Korea-Japan talks enter 2nd day with few signs of progress

By 정주원
  • Published : Mar 31, 2014 - 09:38
  • Updated : Mar 31, 2014 - 09:38
High-level officials from North Korea and Japan were to hold their second day of talks in Beijing on Monday, with the Pyongyang delegate hinting that they made little headway in putting the abduction issue on the agenda.

North Korea and Japan started the two-day talks on Sunday, the first of their kind since November 2012, led by Song Il-ho, the North Korean ambassador in charge of normalizing relations with Japan, and Junichi Ihara, chief of the Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau at Japan's foreign ministry.

A key pending issue between the two countries is North Korea's admitted kidnapping of more than a dozen Japanese citizens in the past. North Korea has said, however, the issue was settled.

With the two sides ending their first day of talks on Sunday evening, Ryu Song-il, one of the North's delegates and head of the Japanese affairs section at the North's foreign ministry, told reporters that no agreement has been reached on the agenda of the discussions.

"We are still in the process of consultations for the agenda," Ryu said, adding that both sides raised "issues of mutual concern."

Asked about the mood of the Sunday talks, Ryu hinted at tense negotiations, replying, "I was so stressed."

North Korea and Japan agreed to resume the government-level talks during their informal gathering in China earlier this month when Red Cross officials of both sides met to discuss the repatriation of the remains of Japanese nationals who died in the North during World War II.

In 2002, North Korea admitted to abducting 13 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s. The North then let five of them return home but said eight others had died, though Japanese officials believe that some of them are still alive.

One of those Japanese who North Korea claimed to have died is Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in 1977 at the age of 13. Earlier this month, North Korea allowed the parents of Yokota to meet her 26-year-old daughter in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator.

The Beijing contact comes as North Korea takes an ambivalent approach to the outside world.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea for test-firing two medium-range ballistic missiles in violation of its ban on such activities. Angered by the U.N. condemnation, North Korea on Sunday vowed it would not rule out conducting a "new form" of nuclear test.

North Korea and Japan have never had diplomatic ties, and the abduction issue has long been a key stumbling block in normalizing their bilateral relations. (Yonhap)