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Japan, North Korea Resume Bilateral Talks

Japan and North Korea, both parties to the six-nation North Korea nuclear disarmament talks, are meeting in Beijing to discuss bilateral issues. Japan is seeking more information about its citizens kidnapped by North Korea, while Pyongyang wants a normalization of relations and reparations for Japan's occupation of the Korean Peninsula in the first half of the 20th century.

Six days before the nuclear disarmament talks are due to resume, Japanese and North Korean Foreign Ministry officials met in Beijing Thursday to discuss bilateral disputes over abductions and reparations.

Pyongyang wants reparations for Japan's occupation of Korea before and during World War Two. Analysts say Japan might provide North Korea with up to ten-billion dollars if relations between the two nations were normalized, but will not likely give any money unless Pyongyang gives more information on the fate of Japanese it kidnapped during the Cold War.

Akitaka Saiki is Japan's chief delegate to the talks. Speaking to reporters after arriving in Beijing Wednesday, he said normalization of relations - another North Korean demand - would not be possible until the kidnapping issue was resolved.

"We have been repeatedly telling the North Korean side that without resolving the abduction problem, there can be no normalization of diplomatic ties between our countries," he said.

Pyongyang has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens during the 1970's and '80's, so they could teach Japanese to North Korean spies. It allowed five of the kidnap victims to return to Japan, but says the other eight died. Japan says Pyongyang has not provided credible information on how the kidnap victims died. It wants their remains returned, and it believes more than 13 may have been abducted.

Japanese distrust of North Korea has grown since last year. Pyongyang returned what it said were the cremated remains of one missing kidnap victim, but DNA testing showed the remains were those of someone else.

Hong Nack Kim is a Professor of political science at West Virginia University in the United States. He calls North Korean's explanations suspicious.

"My impression is that North Korea has either executed, or may have simply disposed of, some of these people, in such a way that no remains of any sort is really available right now," said Professor Kim.

The bilateral talks began the same day Beijing announced that six-nation negotiations aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programs are to resume in the Chinese capital on November 9.