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The BBC's Juliet Hindell reports from Tokyo
"The talks on policy towards North Korea will last all day"
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 05:04 GMT 06:04 UK
Trilateral talks on North Korea
missiles
Nations concerned about N Korea's weapons programme
Representatives from the United States, South Korea and Japan are holding talks in Tokyo to try to co-ordinate their policy towards North Korea.

Each of the delegations has specific worries about the isolated regime, but correspondents say that all three are concerned to press Pyongyang to reduce its missile production.

It is believed that that the north is working with Iraq to build a new ballistic missile plant in Sudan.

The Tokyo meeting comes just days before Japan is due to start full-scale talks with North Korea aimed at resuming diplomatic ties.


Woman and child
Serious food shortages have hit North Korea hard
The last time the two countries tried to repair relations in 1992, negotiations collapsed after Tokyo accused Pyongyang's agents of kidnapping Japanese citizens.

Relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang hit rock bottom in August 1998 when North Korea launched a three-stage missile over Japan's main island of Honshu.

However North Korea is now said to be more willing to make the talks a success because it is facing serious shortages of food and fuel - and as a result needs the support of other countries more than ever.

A US congressional report has estimated that up to two million North Koreans may have died of starvation and related diseases since 1995.

Missing

Japanese officials say huge hurdles must be cleared before progress can be expected towards establishing diplomatic ties with North Korea.

Tokyo is keen to resolve the matter of 10 Japanese citizens it believes were kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of them disappeared from remote areas on the coast of the Sea of Japan, which divides the two nations.

North Korea, which denies the abductions, has agreed to launch a nationwide investigation into the fate of what it has called "missing" Japanese nationals.

But the agreement was carefully worded to present it as nothing more than standard co-operation between two countries in searching for missing people.

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See also:

07 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan to send food to N Korea
30 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japan concerned over North Korea arrest
14 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japan lifts North Korea sanctions
02 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Thaw in Japan-North Korea relations
09 Sep 98 | Korea at 50
North Korea: a political history
17 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
US eases Korea sanctions
27 Feb 00 | Americas
Signs of US-North Korean thaw
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