Japan urged North Korea on yesterday to return to six-way talks on the North's nuclear weapons program in a third day of meetings focusing on the fate of missing Japanese citizens kidnapped by Northern spies, Japanese officials said.
"We were hoping to take this opportunity and discuss the six-nation talks," Japanese delegation chief Mitoji Yabunaka said at the beginning of yesterday's meeting in Pyongyang.
The comments were included in footage provided by North Korea and shown by Japanese broadcaster NHK.
Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea's vice foreign minister, said only that he hoped they could discuss "the problems pending between the two countries."
The two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US have held three rounds of talks on North Korea's nuclear program since last year, but without breakthroughs.
A fourth round scheduled for September never happened because Pyongyang refused to attend, demanding that the US abandon what it called its hostile policy of trying to topple its government, and provide economic aid and security guarantees in exchange for a freeze on its nuclear activities.
Japanese and North Korean officials were to discuss the abduction issue later yesterday.
North Korea has admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to teach Japanese language and customs to its spies. Pyongyang released five Japanese in 2002, but said the eight others had died.
Many Japanese suspect the eight, as well as other unconfirmed abduction victims, may still be alive, and Tokyo has demanded a more comprehensive investigation from the North.
Yesterday, Japanese officials were expected to demand the North provide new findings of their latest investigation, Japan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Calls for economic sanctions against the North have been growing in Tokyo as a way of pressuring Pyongyang for information on the fate of those kidnapped.
Pyongyang barred Japanese media from the country to cover the talks, and Tokyo said it could not immediately confirm whether yesterday's meeting had begun as scheduled.
In a 12-hour meeting on Wed-nesday, the two sides discussed relations over the last few months and the North Koreans explained some of the results of their investigation, the ministry said, without providing further details.