November 4, 2005

Japan, N.Korea tackle kidnappings in China talks

By Teruaki Ueno

BEIJING (Reuters) - Japan and North Korea tried again on
Friday to resolve long-standing disputes, including North
Korea's kidnapping of Japanese citizens decades ago, that have
blocked the Asian neighbors from forging diplomatic ties.

On Thursday, the first day of the talks in Beijing,
discussions centered on the abduction of Japanese to help train
North Korean spies and the issue of reparations for Japan's
often brutal colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to
1945, officials from both sides said.

"We are going to sort out comprehensively what we discussed
yesterday," North Korean negotiator Song Il-ho told reporters
shortly before meeting the Japanese delegation on Friday.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said it was too
early to say if the Beijing meetings, the first comprehensive
talks between Japan and North Korea since 2002 when the two
sides met in Kuala Lumpur, would continue over the weekend.

"Regarding the abduction issue, the Japanese side said what
they needed to say in a considerably firm manner," Abe told a
news conference in Tokyo.

"... I have heard that the North Korean side also expressed
views and questions of their own."

North Korea has admitted abducting 13 people in the 1970s
and 1980s to help train spies. Five of them have returned to
Japan with their children, and Pyongyang says the other eight
are dead.

But Japan has been pressing for further information on the
eight and another three who Tokyo says were also kidnapped.

The feud over the kidnappings, the main obstacle to
improved ties, intensified after DNA tests showed that bones
handed over to Japanese diplomats a year ago were not those of
Japanese abductees, as Pyongyang had claimed.

"We have already made our position clear on the DNA
analysis and I want to ask various questions on this," Song
said on Thursday.

The United States threw support behind Japan in a standoff
with North Korea over the issue.

Joseph DeTrani, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, said on
Wednesday that the timing of removing North Korea from the U.S.
list of states accused of sponsoring terrorism depends on
Pyongyang satisfying Japan's demands concerning the

In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said he was
not aware that North Korea had made any changes to its

"They have insisted that the issue was resolved... I have
not heard that they made a positive proposal on the abduction
issue," he told reporters.

Tokyo has offered full-scale financial aid to impoverished
North Korea, but only after diplomatic ties are established.

Japan gave South Korea $500 million when the two countries
normalized ties in 1965, and some analysts have said it could
provide up to $10 billion to the impoverished North.

"We are having talks with our clear position that there
will be no normalization of relations unless the abduction,
nuclear and missile issues are resolved," a Japanese Foreign
Ministry official said in Beijing late on Thursday.

The Beijing talks between foreign ministry officials from
the two countries come after North Korea agreed in principle in
September to dismantle its nuclear arms programs in exchange
for aid and better ties with Washington and Tokyo.

Six-party talks on the nuclear crisis, involving China, the
two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States, resume in
Beijing next week.

(Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in Tokyo)