North Korea says Japanese abductees alive


North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il today apologised for North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals, a Japanese foreign ministry official said.

He said that several Japanese alleged to have been kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s are alive.

The Japanese chief cabinet secretary said Mr Kim gave the news during first-ever talks between Mr Kim and Japanese Prime Minister Mr Junichiro Koizumi in the North Korean capital.

Mr Kim and Mr Koizumi have now agreed that talks to establish bilateral ties will go ahead.

Information over the 11 missing Japanese nationals was made a precondition for such talks. Japan believes the abductions were to provide teachers of the Japanese language and customs in North Korean spy schools.

Today is the first time North Korea has given information over the alleged abductees, but it was not clear whether Pyongyang admitted involvement.