• Kyodo

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Japanese negotiators arrived in Beijing Sunday afternoon to meet with North Korean officials for this year’s third round of bilateral talks on establishing diplomatic relations.

The nine-member delegation is to negotiate with the North Korean team for two days beginning today.

The talks will be the 11th overall. Japan and North Korea resumed normalization dialogue in April for the first time in 71/2 years, and met again in August.

The two countries spent the last two rounds clarifying their basic positions. They are expected to enter substantial negotiations in the current round.

Diplomatic sources are focusing on how they will handle the two main sticking points — North Korea’s claim for compensation for Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and Japan’s demand that the North cooperate in locating Japanese nationals allegedly abducted by North Korean agents.

In the last two rounds, Japan strongly demanded that the abduction issue be solved and that North Korea address international concerns over its missile program.

North Korea, meanwhile, demanded that priority be placed on issues related to Japan’s colonization of the peninsula. It wants an official apology and compensation.

To increase the chances of a breakthrough, Tokyo decided earlier this month to send 500,000 tons of rice to the North, which is beset by food shortages. International factors could also play a role in the talks.

The meeting comes as North Korea appears headed toward warmer ties with South Korea and the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang on Oct. 23-24, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to travel to the country.

The previous series of normalization talks between Japan and North Korea began in January 1991, but collapsed in November 1992 when Pyongyang rejected Tokyo’s request for information on a Japanese woman allegedly snatched by North Korean agents.

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