Government officials contacted North Korea in November to propose talks on recovering the remains of Japanese who died there and establishing a cemetery for them, sources close to bilateral relations said Sunday.
The North Korean side did not respond negatively to the idea, the sources said.
The discussions could serve as a catalyst for Japan and North Korea, which do not maintain diplomatic ties, to resume talks on the long-standing abduction issue involving North Korea’s spies.
But whether the talks will materialize is uncertain because of concern in Tokyo that the move would be too hasty in light of Japan’s continuing sanctions against North Korea and other security concerns.
In November, several civil servants contacted a senior official in the Workers’ Party of Korea outside of Japan and raised the issue of what became of the Japanese who opted to stay in what is now known as North Korea when the war ended, the sources said.
The issue was also discussed in January during secret talks in northeast China between Hiroshi Nakai, former minister in charge of the abduction issue, and Song Il Ho, North Korean ambassador for normalization talks with Japan, who agreed to continue exchanging views on the matter, the sources said.