• Kyodo

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The first round of talks with North Korea on its promised inquiry into the abductions of Japanese citizens will take place next Tuesday in Beijing, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday.

Pyongyang will likely inform Tokyo that it has set up a unit to conduct the investigation, Japanese officials said.

Junichi Ihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, will meet for two days with Song Il Ho, North Korea’s ambassador for talks to normalize relations with Japan.

The North Korean side is expected to explain the composition of the unit, including its leadership hierarchy.

Senior officials said earlier that Ihara would relay Song’s briefing to Tokyo so the government can carefully assess whether the unit, which North Korea calls a “special investigation committee,” possesses a “mandate to survey all organs” of the state — as Pyongyang has pledged.

In an agreement struck in late May, Japan will lift some of the sanctions it has unilaterally imposed on North Korea once Pyongyang sets up such a committee and starts a “comprehensive and full-scale survey” of all Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as missing individuals it suspects were taken.

North Korea has conducted investigations into the abductions of Japanese nationals in the past, but Japan dismissed the results as unconvincing. In 2008, Pyongyang promised to reinvestigate their fates, but it has yet to do so.

Tokyo plans to call on Pyongyang to provide it with more convincing answers to a set of 150 questions and issues it raised in 2002 over the past abductions, officials said earlier. Japan has decided to bring up the questionable points and discrepancies because it has not been satisfied with responses so far and remains distrustful of the North.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said he does not expect North Korea’s new round of investigations to last for more than a year.