TOKYO – Japan believes North Korea's abductions of Japanese citizens will be addressed in the next, more senior round of talks between the two sides as the countries wrap up their first government-to-government discussions in four years.
The talks in Beijing this week were initially planned for two days, but were extended to a third day and wrapped up on Friday.
The two sides, which don't have diplomatic relations, agreed to coordinate so that "issues of interest" to both could be addressed at future talks in Beijing, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato said.
Japanese officials made it clear to North Korean counterparts this week that the abductions are a main concern, so Tokyo believes it will be discussed at the next meeting, he said.
"Naturally, the abductions problem is an issue of great interest to Japan," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters at his regular briefing.
North Korea has admitted abducting 13 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, and using them to train spies. It pledged in the 2008 talks to reinvestigate the abductions, but has not done so.
The issue remains a major obstacle to normalizing diplomatic relations between the two sides.
Discussions between Tokyo and Pyongyang have been frozen since August 2008 because of animosity over past frictions, the kidnappings and disputes over the North's nuclear program.
South Korean analysts have said North Korea is using the talks to improve ties with Japan because it urgently needs economic help, and probably wants both investments and compensation for Tokyo's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-1945.
The meetings were "frank" and "sincere," Sato said.