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The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul
"Both sides acknowledge that bridging their differences isn't going to be easy"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 05:16 GMT 06:16 UK
N Korea seeks closer ties with Japan
Japan's Kojiro Takano (left) hopes for better links
Japanese and North Korean negotiators have begun landmark talks aimed at normalising diplomatic ties.

Both sides said they would try to bridge their many differences, including Tokyo's concerns over North Korean missiles, and Pyongyang's call for an apology for Japan's colonial rule.

Japan wants talks on North Korea's missiles
The two sides last sat down at the negotiating table in 1992 - talks broke down after Japan accused North Korean agents of kidnapping Japanese citizens.

Tokyo's chief negotiator, Kojio Takano, acknowledged that difficult issues would be addressed.

"I want to achieve mutual understanding so we can overcome those issues. We have a great determination to bring these talks to a conclusion."

His counterpart, Jong Thae-Hwa, said the two sides should see the five-day talks through to the end.

"The path we are going to take is in no way easy. The question is whether or not we have the will and determination."

Contentious issues

The talks in Pyongyang come at a time when the secretive Stalinist state has embarked on a series of diplomatic discussions.

Woman and child
Famine has claimed millions of lives in North Korea
The famine that claimed millions of lives has also pushed the country to end its isolation and seek Western aid.

North Korea is expected to raise the contentious issue of Japan's colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910-45.

It has demanded an apology and compensation.

Japanese officials said earlier that although compensation was not option, Tokyo would be ready to offer an apology.

For its part, Tokyo is demanding that North Korea's missile programme be discussed. In 1998, a ballistic missile was fired over Japan.

It also wants to raise the issue of 10 missing Japanese citizens, believed to be kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s.

North Korea has denied the allegation, and promised an investigation into the fate of those missing.

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07 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
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09 Sep 98 | Korea at 50
North Korea: a political history
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Signs of US-North Korean thaw
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