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SLUG: 2-268614 Japan-North Korea (L-O) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:

DATE= 10/30/2000








INTRO: Japan and North Korea have concluded their first day of talks on normalizing relations in Beijing. But as Correspondent Leta Hong Fincher reports, Japanese officials are downplaying the possibility of reaching an agreement on key issues in the bilateral relationship.

TEXT: A Japanese official says that negotiators from Tokyo and Pyongyang have made a serious start, but have failed to reach an agreement on what he called - the tough issues facing the two countries.

The official, who requested anonymity, told reporters that normalization with North Korea is more complicated for Japan than for other countries, such as the United States, because Japan has a history of colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

Pyongyang is demanding compensation for Tokyo's harsh colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Japan has agreed to consider paying what it calls - properties and claims - to North Korea, but refuses to call the payments compensation - because it says Japan was not at war with Korea.

The official said the North Koreans are very tough negotiators all the time, and these talks are no exception. North Korea's chief negotiator is Jong Thae Hwa, while the chief Japanese negotiator is Kojiro Takano.

The official declined to comment on Tokyo's demand that Pyongyang cooperate in finding Japanese citizens allegedly abducted to North Korea to train spies in the 1960's and 70's. Pyongyang denies abducting anyone.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori recently caused an outcry over the issue by suggesting that the missing Japanese could be declared found in a third country, and returned without Pyongyang admitting misbehavior.

The official said he does not expect much common ground to be found within this round of normalization talks with North Korea, the third round this year, but said an agreement would be reached eventually. He added that it took 14-years for Japan to normalize relations with South Korea.

Tokyo is said to feel some urgency about the talks, since North Korea is rapidly improving ties with the United States, Britain, and Germany, as well as other countries. (SIGNED)


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