BEIJING – Japan and North Korea wrapped up the first day of working-level talks Saturday with Pyongyang reporting no new information on 10 missing Japanese whom Tokyo says were abducted by the North, Japanese sources said.
Japan also conveyed “serious concern” over North Korea’s increased military activities that have prompted worries about a new missile test.
“I explained about the results of our reinvestigation (since) August,” North Korea’s representative to the talks Song Il Ho said after the meeting but did not provide details.
According to a Japanese Foreign Ministry source, the North Koreans said during the meeting that they are still reinvestigating the fates of the 10.
The North has admitted its agents abducted eight of the people, and they have since died in North Korea. It says the other two never entered its territory.
Song, vice director of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department, told reporters the two sides held “sincere discussions” and added he talked only about the abduction issue during the 3 1/2-hour session.
Before going into the meeting, he said he had new information to give Japan based on progress in the reinvestigation conducted in line with a list of questions submitted by Tokyo.
Akitaka Saiki, head of the Japanese delegation, told reporters North Korea’s information did not contradict the North’s previous explanations on the 10 Japanese.
The talks were to continue Sunday in the Chinese capital.
The two countries held their first working-level talks in mid-August.
Speaking to reporters before the start of the latest round of talks, Song said he would give a verbal report about what the North has found since August.
In the previous meeting, the North provided what the Japanese government called an “insufficient” interim report on the reinvestigation.
Tokyo has been hoping North Korea will provide convincing accounts on the 10 missing people based on 150 questions handed to the North in August.
Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told reporters shortly before the talks he would listen to what the North Korean side had to say.
Asked for his reaction to Song’s earlier comments about having new information, Saiki said, “I will be holding talks with him today, and I plan to hear about that topic from him.”
The talks are scheduled to end Sunday but may carry over to Monday, Japanese officials said.
The focus is on whether North Korea will comply with Japan’s demand for fresh information on the 10 missing people. Tokyo officially recognizes them as having been abducted by the North in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Japan wants North Korea to provide a convincing report on its reinvestigation, as promised by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in May.