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Japan and N Korea re-open talks

7 June 08 09:00 GMT

Japan and North Korea have begun talks in Beijing in a fresh push to resolve bilateral disputes after a nine-month break in negotiations.

Tokyo wants a conflict over abducted Japanese nationals to be resolved before establishing a formal diplomatic relationship with Pyongyang.

North Korea is seeking reparations for Japan's 35-year colonisation of the Korean peninsula.

The two last held talks in September 2007 but no progress was made.

Japan's envoy to the talks, Akitaka Saiki, called on North Korea to "show a sincere and constructive state of mind at the negotiations", ahead of the talks, AFP reported.

The North Korean official attending the negotiations, Song Il-ho, confirmed that "contacts" were planned, but gave no details.

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported that the talks at the Japanese embassy were expected to last one day.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura made clear on Friday that he did not anticipate a breakthrough.

''If the other side suddenly comes up with some kind of offer (on the abduction issue), of course that would be good. But I am not holding such high expectations from tomorrow's meeting,'' Kyodo News agency quoted him as saying.

Abduction row

North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had abducted 13 Japanese nationals in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most are thought to have been used to help train North Korean spies.

It has returned five of them and says the remaining eight are dead. It says the issue has now been resolved.

But Japan wants concrete proof of the deaths and believes that several more of its citizens were taken.

The bilateral talks are part of a six-nation deal agreed in February 2007 under which North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear programme in return for aid.

Progress on implementing this deal remains stalled over North Korea's failure to provide a complete accounting of all its nuclear activities.

In recent weeks, however, negotiators have expressed hope that such a declaration could be forthcoming.

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says Japan is concerned that if that happens, the abduction issue might be forgotten.

North Korea tested a nuclear weapon in October 2006.

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