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North Korea, Japan Still far Apart on Issue of Abducted Japanese

  • Luis Ramirez

Japan and North Korea say their talks in Beijing this week are making little progress in resolving an impasse over North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals during the Cold War. The ultimate aim of the negotiations - in their fourth day Tuesday - is the normalization of relations between the two countries.

The talks, which started Saturday, have focused largely on the abduction issue - which Japanese officials say must be resolved before the two nations can establish diplomatic relations.

The deadlock centers on Japan's demands for more information on the fate of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korean agents more than two decades ago - and North Korea's insistence that the case is closed.

Song Il Ho, North Korea's chief envoy, on Tuesday said two meetings on the abductions issue had failed to yield significant progress.

The North Korean official says the talks have confirmed there is still what he said is a "huge difference" of opinions on the kidnapping issue.

North Korea has admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese nationals to help train spies, and says it has accounted for all of the abductees. Of the 13 people, Pyongyang has released five and says the other eight died. The Japanese government says it believes others were abducted, and wants full information on all of them.

Japanese envoy Kunio Umeda said the answers the North Koreans have been giving have been disappointing.

He says Japan strongly demanded that North Korea take sincere measures on the key issues, but he says Japanese delegates are not satisfied with the North Koreans' responses. The Japanese official says the two sides could not narrow differences, something he said was "very regrettable."

The negotiations are the first between the two countries since 2002, in what has been an extended effort to normalize relations. Analysts say North Korea has long wanted ties with Japan, in part to draw investment and aid.

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