• Kyodo

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Japan and North Korea will hold talks next week in China on Pyongyang’s inquiry into the Japanese victims of its abductions of foreign nationals, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said.

Junichi Ihara, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Song Il Ho, North Korea’s ambassador for negotiations to normalize bilateral relations, will meet Monday in Shenyang, Kishida told reporters Wednesday in New York.

Ihara will ask Song to explain why North Korea has failed to release its first report on the reinvestigation of the whereabouts of people Pyongyang abducted decades ago, Kishida said.

“We need to hear what the current situation is surrounding their reinvestigation,” Kishida said, adding that he was not aware of plans for members of North Korea’s special investigation team to attend Monday’s meeting.

The foreign minister said it appears premature to predict when Japan may receive the first report. “We may be able to see it after we quiz (them),” he said.

But he warned that North Korea should not see the meeting as a chance to renege on its commitment to submit the first report, and that anything said at the meeting will not be taken to be that report.

Both Kishida and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong are in New York to attend events related to the U.N. General Assembly. There was no plan as of Wednesday evening for them to meet one on one.

North Korea informed Japan last week that the first report would be delayed. Tokyo rejected the reason given and pressed Pyongyang for a proper explanation.

Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abductees in the 1970s and 1980s but suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances.

Five of the 17 were repatriated in 2002. Pyongyang has said eight others have died and four never entered the country.

Japan lifted some of its unilateral sanctions against North Korea in early July when Pyongyang launched a special investigations unit to reinvestigate the fates of those individuals as well as others who disappeared and who may have been abducted.

The abductions issue has prevented Tokyo and Pyongyang from normalizing ties.

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