NKorea to have diplomatic talks with Japan for the first time ever

North Korea will hold talks with Japan in October, Kyodo News agency said Friday quoting a high ranking North Korean official.

Japan has been eager to restart negotiations with North Korea in hopes of resolving the cases of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.

But Kyodo quoted Jong Thae Hwa, the North Korean official, in its Pyongyang datelined report as saying that the kidnapping issue has been fully settled and the communist state no longer intends to provide any proof or respond to investigation requests.

Foreign Ministry officials were not available for comment Friday, a national holiday in Japan.

Earlier this week, Japan's foreign minister said the two countries will resume bilateral talks soon on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons, missile programs and the kidnapping issue, to restart negotiations stalled for nearly a year.

The last substantial talks between the two sides took place last November. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi held a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in May 2004 in Pyongyang.

The North has admitted to abducting 13 Japanese to train its spies in Japanese language and culture. Pyongyang allowed five to return to Japan in 2002, saying the remaining eight had died.

Tokyo, however, has demanded proof of the deaths, as well as a thorough investigation into claims that other Japanese were also abducted. North Korea has indicated it considers the issue a closed case.

Family members of those abducted urged Japan to be tough in pushing for answers and called for economic sanctions against the communist country if it didn't sufficiently cooperate.

Japan and North Korea committed to press toward establishing diplomatic relations in a joint declaration during a Koizumi-Kim summit in Pyongyang in 2002. Sporadic talks toward normalization have stalled, however, over the abductions issue.

The two countries have never had diplomatic relations.

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