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Japan, N. Korea Still Apart on Talks

November 25, 2002

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TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese and North Korean officials met for unofficial talks over the weekend but failed to agree on how to proceed with negotiations to normalize relations, the government said Monday.

Tokyo reiterated its demand that relatives of five Japanese kidnapped by North Korea be sent to Japan, and reiterated its concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program.

``As before, there is a difference of opinion between the two sides. We will continue to negotiate strongly,″ Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said.

Hitoshi Tanaka, head of the ministry’s Asia bureau, led the group of Japanese officials attending the talks held Saturday and Sunday. Fukuda added that no decision had been made on whether the two sides would meet for further unofficial talks this weekend.

Tokyo reportedly has proposed holding the next round of formal normalization talks in early December, but the weekend meeting failed to produce an agreement on when talks might resume.

The first round of official talks ran aground last month over the fate of the five Japanese who recently returned home for the first time since being kidnapped by North Korean spies decades ago.

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