North Korea, Japan hold new round of talks on abductees

Saturday, September 25th 2004, 10:48 am

By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ Japanese and North Korean envoys began a new round of talks Saturday on a dispute over Japanese nationals abducted by the North's agents decades ago, and the chief Japanese delegate said he would press for new details on their fate.

The working-level meeting was the second round of talks on the abductees. North Korea had promised earlier to investigate the fate of as many as 10 missing Japanese, but Japanese officials said it failed to disclose any new information during a first round last month in the Chinese capital.

``I am looking forward to seeing the report, which they said they have speeded up,'' the chief Japanese delegate, Akitaka Saiki, said as he went into the talks Saturday at a Beijing hotel.

Japan is looking for information about Japanese who were abducted in the 1970s and '80s to train North Korean agents in Japanese language and culture.

Japanese officials also want to discuss reports the North might be preparing to test a short-range missile, said Saiki, the deputy director-general of Asian affairs for Japan's Foreign Ministry.

Japan's government said Thursday it had information suggesting the North might be preparing to test-fire a short-range missile _ a possible violation of a self-imposed 2002 moratorium. The government later backed away from that, saying the North might just be holding military drills, not a missile test.

The North's chief delegate to the Beijing talks, Song Il Ho, said he would discuss the investigation, although he didn't give any details.

``There are many things we have investigated that need to be discussed here,'' said Song, a deputy director-general of Asian affairs for the North's Foreign Ministry.

However, Song indicated that the North wasn't willing to discuss questions about a possible missile test.

``I think that is a totally different issue and will have nothing to do with this talk,'' he said.

Song reportedly said earlier that North Korea hasn't finished its promised investigation.

``We need to continue our investigations until we complete them,'' Japan's Kyodo News agency quoted him as saying.

North Korea has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens, but says eight died. The North allowed the remaining five to return to Japan, but Tokyo wants information on those that North Korea claims died.

Japan also wants information on two others that it suspects North Korea kidnapped.

Japan's government has expressed frustration at the lack of progress in improving relations. Despite pledges made during a 2002 meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, they have yet to resolve conflicts over the abductees or the North's nuclear program.

North Korea rattled Tokyo in 1998 when it test-fired a missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean.

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