Japan and North Korea on Sunday held the first formal government-level talks in more than a year following a shift in Pyongyang’s handling of past abductions of Japanese citizens.
The two-day meeting in Beijing came after diplomats held informal talks on the sidelines of a humanitarian conference in the Chinese city of Shenyang between Red Cross officials from the two countries earlier this month.
“We would like to have serious and frank discussions over a broad range of outstanding issues for both sides,” Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told Japan’s NHK public broadcaster.
“We would like to make efforts so as to make progress towards solving those issues.”
Song Il-Ho, North Korea’s ambassador for talks to normalise relations with Japan, replied: “I completely feel the same way,” Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.
At the North Korean embassy, the venue of the first day of the meeting, Song expressed hope that relations between the two countries will start moving “in a positive direction,” Kyodo said.
Song also compared the resumption of governmental dialogue to the arrival of spring, “when icy rivers melt and water begins to flow,” Kyodo reported.
The meeting comes amid recent mixed signals from Pyongyang over its willingness to re-engage in diplomacy with Tokyo.