Japan and North Korea have agreed to meet in Beijing on Sept. 6 for the first round of preparatory talks regarding visits to Japan by Japanese women living in North Korea, Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama said Sept. 1.

The talks will be held between Tadateru Konoe, vice president of the Japanese Red Cross Society, and his North Korean counterpart, Ri Song Ho, the top government spokesman said. “We hope that the talks will lead to a meaningful result,” Kajiyama told reporters during a regular press conference.

The officials of the red cross societies are expected to discuss how they will arrange the visits, Kajiyama said. Kajiyama added that working-level officials of the Foreign and Health and Welfare ministries will also attend.

Negotiators of the two countries decided in late August to reopen long-stalled normalization talks, and Pyongyang agreed to allow a dozen Japanese women who married North Koreans and left Japan decades ago to visit their homeland to see relatives.

It is estimated that more than 1,800 Japanese women accompanied their Korean husbands to the reclusive communist country since a repatriation agreement was concluded in 1959 between the Red Cross societies of Japan and North Korea. Most of their relatives have not heard from them since, and more than half the wives would now be 70 years old or more, if still alive.

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