BEIJING (AP) — The governments of Japan and North Korea will be asked to participate in negotiations to repatriate the remains of Japanese soldiers buried in North Korea, a Japanese Red Cross official said Friday.
The countries do not have diplomatic relations, and a key issue in the matter is getting the governments involved.
Japanese Red Cross Society Director-General Osamu Tasaka met with Ri Ho Rim, secretary general of North Korea's Red Cross Society, over the past two days in Beijing to discuss whether the grave sites could be visited and if the remains, including those of Japanese soldiers and military officials who fought in World War II, could be returned home.
Tasaka said the objective of the meeting was achieved when both sides agreed to seek governmental cooperation. He said he would soon ask for his government's involvement and felt optimistic about its participation.
Talking to reporters outside a Beijing hotel, Ri called the negotiations sincere.
"We have deepened understanding for each other," Ri said. "We will continue our discussions vigorously in the future."
He said the sides reached consensus on some issues, but did not give details.
Japan's Kyodo News agency said Friday that North Korea's Red Cross Society would welcome family members to visit burial sites of Japanese.
Kyodo said about 34,600 Japanese are believed to have died of hunger and disease in the final phase of World War II in what is now North Korea, and that the remains of 13,000 had been returned to Japan.
Japan occupied northeast China and the Korean Peninsula before and during the war.