Japan, N.Korea officials to meet over Cold War kidnappings report

TOKYO - Japan and North Korea will hold talks next week in China, officials said, after Pyongyang failed to produce a report on its probe into the Cold War kidnappings of Japanese citizens.

The planned meeting comes after Japan announced in July it was easing sanctions against North Korea following the secretive state's promise to reinvestigate cases of Japanese people kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s to train the North's spies.

"A working-level meeting between Japan and North Korea will take place so that the Pyongyang side can tell us how the re-investigation is going," Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to the United Nations.

"It will be on September 29 in Shenyang, China."

Japanese officials had expected the report by September, but North Korea recently said it would be unable to supply substantial details in that timeline.

"The North informed us in mid-September that they could neither brief us on anything more than the early phase of the probe, nor clarify when they could present the first report," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese government's top spokesman, told reporters Thursday.

"The Japanese government has demanded that they explain exactly what they are doing in the re-investigation."

North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens to train its spies in Japanese language and customs.

Five of the abductees returned home but Pyongyang said - without producing credible evidence - that the eight others had died.

That claim provoked an uproar in Japan, where there are suspicions that dozens or perhaps even hundreds of others were taken.

Tokyo and Pyongyang have no formal diplomatic ties, partially because of what Japan says is the North's unwillingness to come clean over the abductions.