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Japan-North Korea Red Cross talks slated for next week

Kyodo

The Red Cross societies of Japan and North Korea will hold a two-day meeting starting March 19 in Shenyang, northeastern China, with the government participation from both sides, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Japan also plans to send Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry officials to the meeting, which will be a follow-up to the previous session held March 3 in Shenyang, the ministry said.

Diplomatic staff from both countries are expected to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the upcoming session. Japan and North Korea lack official diplomatic ties.

Keiichi Ono, director of the Northeast Asia Division at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and Ryu Song Il, chief of the Japanese affairs section of the North Korean Foreign Ministry, held two hours of informal talks on the sidelines of the previous Red Cross meeting.

Ono and Ryu discussed various issues that observers believe covered the abduction issue involving Japanese kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, and Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile development.

Formal negotiations between Tokyo and Pyongyang have been suspended ever since the North launched a “satellite” in December 2012 that other countries condemned as a covert test of long-range ballistic missile technology that violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Like the previous talks, the two Red Cross societies are scheduled next week to discuss a more recent issue: recovering the remains of Japanese who died around the end of World War II in what is now North Korea.

On March 3, the two sides agreed to study suggestions in North Korea that several burial sites believed to contain the remains of Japanese be relocated due to development plans around the sites.

Japan had the Korean Peninsula under colonial rule from 1910 until 1945, when it lost the war.