• Kyodo

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Japanese experts and North Korean officials have agreed to carry out joint research into ancient tombs on the outskirts of Pyongyang, a goodwill ambassador for UNESCO said Saturday.

Ikuo Hirayama, a renowned Japanese artist, told reporters after a five-day visit to North Korea that experts from the two countries plan to work together to study the tombs dating back to the Rakrang Kingdom, which was established in 108 B.C.

Much still remains a mystery regarding the tombs, many of which are believed to exist in areas surrounding Pyongyang, Hirayama said.

North Korea, whose economy is in tatters and whose people depend on international aid for food, is aware that it cannot come up with the kind of funds necessary to preserve the tombs, he said.

“They were very keen to gain international cooperation over the issue,” he said.

Japan and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations.

Talks for normalizing ties have been stalled due to a dispute over the North’s abductions of Japanese citizens as well as the lack of progress in solving the impasse over North Korea’s nuclear development programs.

North Korea is also home to a tomb and mural complex from the ancient Koguryo dynasty.

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