• Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports


BEIJING — Japan’s demands for fresh information on 10 Japanese citizens it says were abducted to North Korea remained unanswered as the two nations concluded two days of working-level talks here Thursday.

Japan proposed meeting again, possibly in September, and urged North Korea to thoroughly investigate and report then, Japanese officials said. North Korea replied that it will consider the proposal.

“We are not satisfied with the results of the investigation put forward at this time,” Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told reporters after the talks.

In Tokyo later Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda blasted the outcome of the discussions.

Talks to normalize ties will not resume for the time being, he said, given the “insufficient” report from the North Korean side.

“The (abduction) issue is a big problem that stands before” the resumption of normalization talks, he said at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

Earlier in the day, a senior government official in Tokyo said Pyongyang might be using the abduction issue as leverage by deliberately delaying the release of information.

“They probably want more humanitarian aid as well as money from Japan,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

During the two-day talks, there was no mention of any deadline for the investigation from either Japan or North Korea, Japanese officials said.

As another sign that the two nations failed to make progress, the officials said neither side raised the subject of resuming negotiations on normalizing diplomatic ties.

The two nations held the final-day session Thursday at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, and continued their discussions during a working lunch. Wednesday’s meeting took place at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

Japan followed up on a verbal interim report on the 10 Japanese provided by North Korea on the first day.

Both North Korean and Japanese officials declined comment on details of the interim report Wednesday.

In response to the report, which a senior Foreign Ministry official described as containing nothing fresh that would reverse previous assessments, Japan proposed sending a mission to North Korea to look into the matter. The North said it would “respect” the offer, conference sources said.

On the second day, Japan renewed its call for North Korea to completely scrap its nuclear arms program, saying that it would help make progress in the next round of six-way talks on the issue, which involve China, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

Japan also urged the North to continue its moratorium on missile launches, saying it is important for North Korea to take steps to try to address the international community’s concerns about its missile program.

North Korea’s chief delegate, Song Il Ho, vice director of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department, said he would convey the message to authorities back home.

During the first-day session, North Korea also acknowledged Japan’s request for information on a separate case involving Susumu Fujita, who vanished in 1976 at age 19. Although he is not on the Japanese government’s official list of 15 abductees, a picture smuggled out of North Korea was thought highly likely to be of him.

The North also indicated Wednesday that it is not opposed to handing over four of the nine Japanese Red Army Faction fugitives who hijacked a Japan Airlines plane to North Korea in 1970 and were granted political asylum there. The other five have either died or returned to Japan.

Japan wanted North Korea to give it convincing information on some or all of the 10 Japanese, following North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s promise to reinvestigate the cases during talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in May in Pyongyang.

In 2002, North Korea told Japan that eight of the 10 have died and said the other two had never entered its territory. Pyongyang allowed five surviving abductees to return to Japan. Tokyo remains skeptical about the North’s claims about the 10, due to a lack of evidence and because one of the two the North claims never entered the country had been abducted along with one of the repatriated five.

The North Korean side raised two issues — what to do with a Japanese man being held in North Korea on drug-smuggling charges and a woman said to have entered the country seeking asylum in October.

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