Japan: Secret talks with N Korea is must

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Tokyo, Oct 14:Japan's Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said today it was necessary to hold bilateral talks with North Korea secretly when needed, but declined to comment on media reports the two countries were holding informal talks.

''It is necessary to hold talks below surface when needed,'' Komura told reporters in an exchange shown on NHK television.

Komura added it was North Korea's responsibility to clarify the fate of the Japanese nationals abducted by the North years ago, as Japan believes that they are still alive.

Tokyo and Pyongyang are set to hold informal talks in China to discuss issues including when to reconvene a bilateral working group on the normalisation of ties, Kyodo news agency reported on Saturday, quoting Japanese government sources.

The countries last held talks in September on establishing diplomatic ties, but failed to make any visible progress.

Yet they have agreed to meet as frequently as possible to try to resolve the problems, including the issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens, a highly emotive subject in Japan.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 that its agents had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, five of whom have since been repatriated.

North Korea says the other eight are dead, but Tokyo is demanding more information about their fate as well as information on another four people it says were also kidnapped.

Song Il Ho, North Korea's envoy to normalisation talks with Japan, and Shigeo Yamada, director of the Northeast Asia Division of Japan's Foreign Ministry would be involved in talks and they have already arrived in the Chinese city of Shenyang, Kyodo said.

Song and Yamada are expected to try to arrange a schedule and fix the agenda for the next working-group meeting, Kyodo said.


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