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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 16:16 GMT
Japan-N Korea talks 'will resume'
Japanese chief negotiator Koichi Haraguchi (c) with some of his staff at the talks
These are the first bilateral talks for more than a year
Talks on normalising relations between North Korea and Japan are to resume, despite Pyongyang pulling out on the first day, Japanese officials say.

The Pyongyang delegation cancelled the afternoon session, casting doubts on whether the meeting would continue.

They gave no reason for the walkout, but Tokyo said they objected to its stance on abductions of Japanese in the 1970s and '80s to be trained as spies.

Tokyo wants the abductees returned and suspected kidnappers handed over.

Tokyo's chief envoy Koichi Haraguchi said late on Wednesday: "We will meet at the North Korean embassy tomorrow morning at 10 to discuss the abductions issue and normal diplomatic relations."

Wartime atonement

Japanese officials said the talks came to a standstill after Mr Haraguchi set out Japan's position on the abduction issue at the opening session.

"In the morning talks, we explained in detail our position on the abduction issue. North Korea opposed this and the talks in the afternoon have not been held," a delegation source said.

Snatched in the '70s and '80s
Used as cultural trainers for N Korean spies
Five allowed home in 2002
Five children now freed from N Korea
Eight said to be dead, others missing

A North Korean embassy official, quoted by the AFP news agency, said: "We cannot disclose the reason now. Maybe we will explain it later".

The abduction row had long threatened to dominate in the Japan-North Korea discussions.

"Normalisation [of ties] is impossible unless the abduction issue is resolved," Koichi Haraguchi told the Associated Press before the talks.

"We'll convey that message to the other side and urge them to fully face the problem and take positive steps."

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 that it had abducted 13 Japanese citizens to train its spies. It returned five of them, but insists the others are dead. Tokyo doubts this and has demanded proof.

Because of the kidnapping row, Japan has so far refused to fund any part of the fuel aid in a recently agreed six-party deal aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programme.

The two sides had agreed that Wednesday's talks would focus on the abduction issue.

On Thursday they are due to discuss what for North Korea is its main priority at the talks - a request for Japan to atone for its 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean peninsula.

Japan has yet to formally apologise to North Korea for its often brutal wartime actions, because of the lack of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Nuclear deal

Wednesday's bilateral meetings were part of the deal agreed during six-party talks in Beijing last month.

Under the deal, Pyongyang agreed to "shut down and seal" a key nuclear facility and admit UN nuclear inspectors in return for 50,000 metric tons of fuel oil.

US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill speaks to reporters in New York
Mr Hill was optimistic about US-N Korea talks

Another bilateral meeting - between the US and North Korea - ended on Tuesday in New York, with US chief negotiator Christopher Hill voicing a "sense of optimism" that Pyongyang would stick to its commitments under the six-party deal.

"They were good, businesslike and very comprehensive discussions," Mr Hill told reporters.

Despite Japan's reservations about the six-nation deal, Japanese government spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki said he welcomed the progress of the US-North Korea talks.

"It is a good thing that the United States and North Korea are talking," he said. "We heard that they referred to the abduction issue and spent a certain amount of time on the issue."

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