Japan, North Korea govt officials to hold talks in China

TOKYO (AFP) - Government officials from Japan and North Korea will hold talks in China next Monday, the first such meeting since November 2012, the Japanese foreign ministry and Red Cross Society said on Thursday.

The talks will be held on the sidelines of meetings by Red Cross officials from the two countries, a Japanese Red Cross spokesman said.

"The talks will be held in Shenyang on March 3," he said.

Japan's foreign ministry will send Mr Keiichi Ono, the head of its North-east Asia division, to the meetings, a ministry official said.

"The Red Cross Society in North Korea approached its counterpart in Japan, requesting the meetings," the official said.

Officials from the two Red Cross societies last met in August 2012 and this led to the talks by government officials in November of that year.

They had planned to meet again in December 2012 but that was cancelled after Pyongyang declared its plan to launch a missile.

Red Cross officials will discuss on-and-off visits by Japanese nationals to the graves of family members who died in North Korea decades ago or missions to collect their remains, the Red Cross official said.

One of the thorniest issues between Tokyo and Pyongyang is the fate of Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 80s.

But it is not clear if government officials will discuss that in the upcoming talks, the ministry official said.

"The meetings are scheduled to discuss the Red Cross mission," he said.

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