November 4, 2005

US, Japan may propose N.Korea human rights group

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and the United States may propose
the establishment of a working group on human rights in North
Korea when six-country talks on the North's nuclear programs
begin next week, Kyodo news agency said on Saturday.

The report came a day after talks between Japan and North
Korea ended without any progress on key issues including
Pyongyang's kidnapping of Japanese citizens decades ago to help
train its spies.

In a report from Washington quoting sources close to the
six-party talks, Kyodo said that both China, the host nation,
and the United States wanted to reach an agreement to set up
groups on specific issues in an effort to resolve them.

Japan and the United States want human rights to be the
focus of one such group, the sources were quoted as saying.

The North has been sensitive to international pressure over
human rights and has long accused Washington of using rights as
a pretext to overthrow the government of Kim Jong-il.

Kyodo said Pyongyang was likely to propose a working group
on its demand for a light-water civilian nuclear reactor before
it abandons its weapons programs.

The new round of talks -- which involve Japan, China, the
United States and Russia along with the two Koreas -- was
likely to wind up within days, as some of the participants had
to take part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in
Pusan, South Korea, from November 12, the sources said.

Human rights became a key issue for Japan following North
Korea's admission in 2002 that it had abducted 13 Japanese 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
issue is a major stumbling block in efforts to normalize
relations between the two states.

Washington has thrown its support behind Japan over the