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New inquiry into Japan abductees

13 August 08 07:06 GMT

Japan and North Korea have agreed to reopen an inquiry into Pyongyang's abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, Japanese reports say.

Agreement came when envoys of the two states, which have no diplomatic ties, met in China as part of broader talks on North Korea's nuclear programme.

In 2002, North Korea admitted that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens to help train its spies in Japanese ways.

It said five had been returned to their families and the other eight had died.

But Japan insists that North Korea abducted more people than it acknowledges, and wants more proof of the eight deaths.

Restrictions lifted

Agreement on reviving the inquiry was reached after two days of talks.

The Japanese may, as a result, gain access to documents, interviews and related sites to verify the results, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reports.

Once an investigation committee starts work, Japan will allow chartered flights between the two countries and lift restrictions on visits, Japanese negotiator Akitaka Saiki was quoted as saying.

"This committee will carry out the investigation in a quick manner and will, as much as possible, finish it by this [autumn]," he told reporters.

The abduction issue has long been an obstacle to dialogue between Japan and North Korea.

Tokyo wants the issue resolved before diplomatic ties with Pyongyang can be normalised.

Meanwhile North Korea is keen to seek reparations for Japan's 35-year colonisation of the Korean peninsula.

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