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Tokyo, Pyongyang to resume normalization talks — government sources

March 17, 2014, 11:39 UTC+3 TOKYO

Japan and North Korea intend to resume the dialogue on normalization of relations that had been interrupted at the end of 2012

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TOKYO, March 17. /ITAR-TASS/. Japan and North Korea intend to resume the dialogue on normalization of relations that had been interrupted at the end of 2012. The negotiations will be held at the level of directors of departments of the two Foreign Ministries, Tokyo government sources said on Monday.

An informal meeting of officials of the Japanese and North Korean Foreign Ministries has already been held in the Chinese city of Shenyang on March 3, where the parties decided to resume the dialogue. Consultations between representatives of the Red Cross Societies of Japan and North Korea were also held there.

Tokyo and Pyongyang had previously held negotiations on normalizing the strained bilateral relations in November 2012. However, in December of the same year, all the contacts were disrupted after the launch of an artificial satellite by North Korea on a powerful rocket. Japan and the United States assessed the launch as a test of a ballistic missile.

Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic relations, there are no direct transport links between the two countries. In response to North Korea’s nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, Tokyo imposed tough sanctions on Pyongyang. They actually prohibit bilateral trade, close Japanese ports to North Korean vessels, block the issuance of visas to North Korean officials.

At the same time, the government of current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently made attempts to restore the dialogue. Tokyo, in particular, hopes to use the negotiations to solve the problem of the Japanese, who, as Japan believes, had been abducted by North Korean secret services in the 1970s and 80s. Pyongyang had previously recognized these facts, released five abducted people, but now it insists that the problem is thus solved and closed forever.

At the same time, the North Korean leadership has now displayed flexibility also on this very sensitive issue. In particular, the Japanese Foreign Ministry reported on March 16 that a meeting of Japanese citizens Shigeru and Sakie Yokota with their 26-year-old granddaughter from North Korea had been for the first time organized in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator this month. Her mother Megumi Yokota had been abducted by North Korean agents in Niigata in 1977. Pyongyang now claims that this woman had died in North Korea.

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