N.Korea, Japan to Hold Talks Next Month

Red Cross officials from North Korea and Japan will meet next month to discuss the return of the remains of Japanese nationals from the North.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the talks will take place in Shenyang, China on March 3.

The last Red Cross talks between the two countries took place in 2012. The Japanese ministry said North Korea made the request to resume dialogue.

Also attending the talks will be foreign ministry officials from both sides, suggesting that more official meetings between Pyongyang and Tokyo could follow.

A diplomatic source in Tokyo said, "North Korea has opted to hold talks in order to overcome the negative publicity brought on by the execution” of former eminence grise Jang Song-taek, "while Japan appears to be trying to pressure South Korea to hold a summit."

President Park Geun-hye has so far declined to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose lurch to the far right has angered both Seoul and Beijing.

The Red Cross talks will also involve the question of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents to train spies. When he was deputy cabinet secretary, Abe became popular with his hardline stance in negotiations with North Korea over the abduction victims.

Japan has recently held secret contacts with North Korea. Japanese media reported that Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at Japan's Foreign Ministry, met a North Korean Foreign Ministry official in Hanoi, Vietnam last month.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 28, 2014 11:02 KST