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Japan, North Korea Talks End Early


Talks between Japan and North Korea on diplomatic normalization have broken down in Hanoi. The North Koreans objected to Japanese demands for a full accounting of Japanese citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang in the 1970s and '80s. From Hanoi, Matt Steinglass has more.

Just as they did Wednesday, the Japanese and North Korean delegations ended their talks early. They managed just under an hour of morning talks before breaking up, with a promise to hold more talks at an unspecified time in the future.

The North Koreans are objecting to Japan's insistence that before any other issues can be addressed, Pyongyang must provide a full accounting of the Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970's and '80s.

The chief Japanese delegate to the talks, Koichi Haraguchi, says the abductions are the number-one issue between Japan and North Korea. He said the North Korean response to the demand was disappointing, and that it is regrettable to see no sincere response on the abductions issue again.

Song Il Ho, North Korea's chief delegate, left the Japanese little hope for receiving a satisfactory answer to their questions.

Song said Japan insists on resolving the abductions issue first, and that there will be no normalization of relations unless surviving kidnap victims and those who kidnapped them are handed over. Pyongyang, he said, will not comply at all with such a stance.

Two days of talks between the two sides had been scheduled to further the objectives of six-party negotiations in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

Those negotiations are aimed at dismantling the North Korean programs completely. In return, North Korea would receive aid and diplomatic concessions, including the possibility of normal diplomatic relations with such countries as the United States and Japan.

A preliminary agreement was reached in Beijing last month, but Japan says it will not participate in the agreement until the abduction issue is resolved. The talks in Hanoi this week were called to discuss the matter.

North Korea has admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese. Five of those were allowed to return to Japan in 2002, and North Korea says the other eight died. But Japan believes a total of 17 were abducted, and a Japanese delegation spokesman here said his government wants any survivors returned. "The Japanese government has been demanding North Korea to immediately return the victims to Japan, and provide a full account of those victims who still, we believe, are in North Korea," said the spokesman.

North Korea, meanwhile, wants Japan to pay reparations for its occupation of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945. But Japan says the two sides agreed to waive such claims in a joint declaration in 2002.

North Korean delegate Song Il-Ho said Japan's position is "unreasonable", and that the abductee issue has been "completely resolved."