North Korean officials to visit Japan

North Korean officials will visit Japan later this week to attend an international conference on Northeast Asia 's security issues, a news report said Tuesday. Tokyo has issued an entry permit to a four-official delegation led by Jong Thae Yang, deputy chief of the North Korean foreign ministry's U.S. affairs department for an Apr. 7-14 stay, Kyodo News agency said, citing a Japanese government source.

Officials of the Japanese foreign ministry refused to confirm the report, saying that the ministry would not comment on individual cases. The North Korean officials will take part in the conference starting Sunday, the report said.

Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic relations. The unusual visit may be a sign that Tokyo is willing to keep a dialogue channel open even when it is tightening immigration control and taking other steps to pressure Pyongyang to resolve pending bilateral problems, Kyodo said.

Kyodo said that researchers and government officials from Japan , the United States , China , Russia and other countries will attend the conference, raising prospects that Jong could meet Japanese and U.S. officials on the sidelines. Jong served as Pyongyang 's deputy representative in the six-nation talks on North Korea 's nuclear programs last September, according to Kyodo. The other five participating countries are China , Japan , Russia , South Korea and the United States , reports the AP.


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