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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 08:54 GMT
Japan-North Korea talks cut short
Vietnamese policeman guards North Korea's embassy in Hanoi
The talks were scheduled to take place over two full days in Hanoi
Talks between Japan and North Korea on normalising ties have broken up early without agreement.

The meeting in Vietnam's capital Hanoi lasted less than an hour, and no date was announced for follow-up talks.

Talks on Wednesday were also cut short after the North reportedly objected to Japan's stance on the abduction of its citizens in the 1970s and 80s.

Tokyo believes the North is not being honest about the fate of the abductees, who were abducted to train its spies.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 that it had abducted 13 Japanese citizens. It returned five of them, but insists the others are dead.

Japan wants North Korea to give a full account of the abductions. The North, for its part, wants Japan to pay reparations for its occupation of Korea in the early part of the last century.

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

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.

History of tensions

Japan's foreign ministry said the two sides had "stated each other's position" on the issue of abductions and reparations when they met on Thursday morning.

"We will continue to exchange views," the ministry statement continued, confirming that the talks were over.

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

Following the break-up of the talks, North Korean envoy Song Il-ho described Japan's position as "an unreasonable insistence", saying the issue of abductions had been "completely resolved".

Japan's chief envoy Koichi Haraguchi said of the North Koreans: "I hope they understand the consequences."

The talks were in trouble almost as soon as they began, after Pyongyang cancelled an afternoon session on the first day, Wednesday.

No official reason was given, but Japanese officials said the North Koreans reacted after Mr Haraguchi set out Japan's position on the abduction issue.

Japan and North Korea have a long history of tensions, and the bilateral talks in Hanoi were never expected to be easy.

Japanese chief negotiator Koichi Haraguchi (c) with some of his staff at the talks
It is the first time both sides have met for more than a year

But in the wake of the six-party agreement reached in Beijing, there has been a renewed sense of optimism among the international community that relations with North Korea can improve.

It is no surprise that the thorny issue of abductions has dominated the Japan-North Korea discussions, analysts say, as it is an important, emotive topic in Japan.

"Normalisation of ties is impossible unless the abduction issue is resolved," Mr Haraguchi told reporters before the two-day meeting began on Wednesday.

The tense atmosphere at the Hanoi talks is in sharp contrast to negotiations between North Korea and the US earlier this week in New York - which were also brought about as a result of the six-party deal.

At the close of those talks, US chief negotiator Christopher Hill voiced 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.

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