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Japan, North Korea Reach No Agreements During Direct Talks


Japanese officials on Saturday said no breakthroughs came out of two days of direct talks with North Korea held in Beijing. The discussions were the first to be held in a year between two Asian neighbors that have never had diplomatic relations.

The only thing representatives from Tokyo and Pyongyang apparently agreed on was to meet again soon.

The head of the Japanese delegation, foreign ministry official Akitaka Saiki, says despite a lack of agreement on items of substance and some pointed exchanges, the discussions were of value.

Mr. Saiki says the two sides, at times, exchanged harsh words. He says he proposed to the North Koreans that the three most contentious issues be discussed separately.

Those issues include the unresolved abductions of Japanese by North Korean agents during the Cold War, and North Korea's demand that Japan atone for its early 20th century colonial rule of the Korean peninsula and make reparations payments.

The third issue involves regional security. Japan has been alarmed at North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile development.

The head of the North Korean delegation, foreign ministry official Song Il Ho, told reporters he also agrees that, despite the differences, the talks were useful.

Mr. Song says although no agreements were reached, he believes that both sides hope they can move in the direction of a solution.

North Korea has admitted abducting 13 people in the 1970's and '80's, to help train its spies. Five of them were returned to Japan in 2002, and Pyongyang says the other eight are dead.

Japanese families of abduction victims are calling for their government to impose economic sanctions on North Korea unless it provides more details on the deaths of the eight.

Japan is a party to the separate six-nation negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, which are due to resume next Wednesday in Beijing. If Pyongyang abandons those programs, the other five parties, Japan included, have promised it security guarantees, and economic and energy assistance.

But Japan has said it will not consider giving North Korea any aid until the abduction and nuclear issues are resolved.

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