Japan calls for China's help on N. Korean abduction issue

Japan's senior diplomat in charge of Asian affairs said Tuesday he has requested Chinese cooperation in resolving the issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

"We discussed North Korean denuclearization issues, including how we will proceed with the six-party talks and called for Chinese cooperation over the abduction issue," Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told reporters at Beijing airport, ending his visit to China that began Sunday.

Ihara, who took the post in late June, said he met with Wu Dawei, China's special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, and Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin on Monday.

Commenting on the talks with Liu, Ihara said they "mainly exchanged views on outstanding issues between Japan and China, and explained each other's positions," indicating that no progress has been made in repairing bilateral relations severely soured due to a dispute over a group of islands in the East China Sea.

Ihara said he is "fulfilled" as he was able to have "frank" discussions both with Wu, chair of the six-party talks, and Liu, but declined to elaborate on the specifics of their meetings.

The six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, the United States and Russia, have been stalled since late 2008.

Ihara's three-day trip to China follows last week's visit by Japan's Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki, who agreed with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Liu that Asia's two biggest economies will continue to "communicate through various channels."

Bilateral relations have reached the lowest point in years since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's previous government, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, purchased three of the five main islands of the Senkakus from their private Japanese owner in September.

According to Japan, the Senkakus are an inherent part of its territory in terms of history and international law, and therefore not disputed territory.

The uninhabited islands are claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.