Before Tokyo can resume normalization talks with Pyongyang, a way must be found to resolve the matter of alleged kidnappings of Japanese by North Korean agents, a top Foreign Ministry official said April 13.

Vice Foreign Minister Shunji Yanai said he welcomes the dialogue between South and North Korea held in Beijing, noting progress in the talks will improve the atmosphere between Japan and North Korea.

Still, Yanai was cautious over the prospect of Japan and North Korea resuming normalization talks, which have been suspended due to the abduction issue. “(Japan) is concerned that talks (with North Korea) would be stalled without the prospect of resolving the abduction issue,” Yanai told a news conference.

Japan and North Korea agreed in August to resume normalization negotiations as soon as possible, but the talks have yet to be launched. Bilateral negotiations aimed at establishing diplomatic ties started in January 1991 but collapsed in November 1992 after eight rounds of discussions, partly because North Korea was offended by Japan’s demand for information on a Japanese woman believed abducted by Pyongyang.

Japanese authorities suspect that at least 10 Japanese were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s and taken to North Korea, an allegation Pyongyang has continued to deny. The ruling Korean Workers’ Party last November expressed its intention to investigate whether there are missing Japanese in North Korea. Yanai said the Tokyo government has not received results of the investigation.

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