N Korea responds to Mongolia's proposal for talks with Japan

ULAN BATOR —
A response from North Korea to a letter sent this summer by Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj contained a reference to the issue of Pyongyang’s past abductions of Japanese nationals, Mongolia’s top diplomat said Tuesday.
Mongolian Foreign Minister Lundeg Purevsuren told reporters that North Korea has replied to the letter, which included a proposal to use Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bator as the venue for official talks with Japan on the abduction issue.
Asked if the response contained any reference to the issue, Purevsuren said “yes.” But he refused to provide details, saying, “It is not appropriate to talk about it at this time.”
The foreign minister said the reply touched on a range of bilateral and regional affairs, and did not disclose whether it was written in the name of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The proposal for talks in Mongolia was made in a personal letter from the president to Kim, which was delivered when his special envoy traveled to Pyongyang in July.
Japan has been counting on Mongolia’s good relations with North Korea to help obtain reliable information on the fates of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang agents in the 1970s and 1980s.
In July last year, North Korea launched a fresh probe into all Japanese people residing in the country in return for the Japanese government lifting some of its unilateral sanctions.
But the negotiations have hit a snag and the two countries have not had a formal meeting since last October.
Japan officially lists 17 nationals as having been abducted by North Korea but suspects its agents were involved in many more disappearances. Five abductees were repatriated in 2002.
Of the 12 still missing, until the start of the new investigation North Korea had claimed that eight are dead and four others never entered its territory.
The most high-profile of the eight is Megumi Yokota, who was 13 when she disappeared from a Japanese coastal city in 1977 while on her way home from school.
The Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator was the place where the parents of Yokota were allowed by North Korea to secretly meet with her daughter Kim Eun Gyong in March 2014.
Senior officials of Japan and North Korea also held formal negotiations in the capital in November 2012.
The foreign minister said Mongolia has “good relations with all Northeast Asian countries and will continue to play an active role in the talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang.”
© KYODO
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