March 7, 2015 / 3:33 AM / in 3 years

Japan, North Korea could resume abduction talks this month: Nikkei

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and North Korea could resume talks as early as this month over an investigation North Korea is conducting into the fate of Japanese citizens it kidnapped decades ago, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Saturday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) supervises an expanded meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang in this February 18, 2015 photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 19, 2015. REUTERS/KCNA

There was informal contact between Japanese and North Korean diplomats in China in late February, and the two sides agreed to hold a meeting about the investigation in China sometime late March or early April, the Nikkei said without citing sources.

Foreign ministry officials were unavailable for comment.

If the talks do take place they would be the first official contact since Japan sent a diplomatic mission to Pyongyang in October only to be disappointed to learn that North Korea had no new information about abductees.

North Korea admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens, and five of those abductees and their families later returned to Japan. North Korea said that the remaining eight were dead and that the issue was closed, but Japan has been pressing for more information.

The North promised to reopen the investigation in 2008, but never followed through.

When North Korea agreed last year in May to reopen an investigation into the abductees Japan responded by easing some sanctions in a sign the often fractious relationship between the two countries could improve.

Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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