Senior officials of the Japanese and North Korean governments held informal talks on Pyongyang's re-investigation into the issue of Japanese abductees late last month in China, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
It was the first time that a meeting between Japan and North Korea on the issue has come to light since the two countries held talks in Pyongyang in October last year. Japan is believed to have been told about the progress made in North Korea's reinvestigation into abductees and to have demanded that Pyongyang report on its probe as soon as possible.
The informal talks were attended by Junichi Ihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, according to sources.
In July last year, both governments agreed that the period for the reinvestigation would be no longer than one year and North Korea would issue the first report on the probe from "late summer to early autumn."
However, North Korea said in September that it would delay the first report. At the bilateral talks in October, the country did not present any concrete information about whether the Japanese abductees are safe, as it had not been able to find objective material about them.
During the informal talks last month, about six months before the summer deadline for the reinvestigation to be completed, Japan apparently intended to relay to North Korea its determination to resolve the abduction issue and to directly urge the country to report on the probe as soon as possible, according to sources.
The sources also said that North Korea has been showing interest in the Tokyo headquarters of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), which supports the North. The building was put up for compulsory auction due to its failure to repay loans, but officials may have discussed the increased possibility that Chongryon will continue using the land and the building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, the sources said.