Beijing (AsiaNews) - Japanese and North Korean government representatives held talks for first time in four years at a meeting sponsored by China. The formal reason for the event is the repatriation of the remains of Japanese who died during World War Two in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, which Pyongyang has refused to repatriate until now. North Korea's nuclear programme and tensions in East Asia will also be on the table.
Some analysts expect the Japanese to push also for information about Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea to use as trainers in various fields, like technology and gastronomy. So far, the Stalinist regime has sent back five people, claiming that all the others were dead. Tokyo however wants more information on the matter.
For Japan, the meeting is "preparatory" but could lead to further developments. "We have been working based on the principle of settling the unfortunate past and on restoring normal relations," Japan's chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura said ahead of the talks.
A diplomatic war between the Communist regime and Japan has continued since the end of Japanese occupation of Korea in 1945. Pyongyang's nuclear programme has only made matters worse. North Korean exercises in the waters off the Japanese Archipelago repeatedly angered the government in Tokyo, which issued an ultimatum in 2008.
Today's talks are the work of Beijing. For China, North Korea's last friend since the collapse of the Soviet union, Pyongyang's military adventurism and provocations have become too much.
Since the death of the 'dear leader' Kim Jong-il and the takeover by his son, Kim Jong-un, China has urged North Korean leaders to open up their economy to the market and introduce social reforms.
On the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, which the Japanese call Senkaku, Beijing appears willing to take a step back to reduce tensions.
Japan's prime minister sent a senior diplomat to Beijing yesterday with a personal letter for President Hu Jintao in what appears to be a bid to ease tensions over their territorial dispute in the East China Sea. In response, China stopped a violent anti-Japanese demonstration in the city of Dondang.