TOKYO, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Japan and North Korea met confidentially in China to discuss the issue of abducted Japanese nationals, according to a Japanese press report.
Government officials from Tokyo and Pyongyang met in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian on Sept. 3-4 to negotiate the issue of Japanese nationals believed to be in North Korean captivity, the Asahi Shimbun reported Friday.
A Japanese source on Japan-North Korea affairs told the newspaper three Japanese diplomats of the foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau were in attendance, but provided no information on the North Korean delegation.
More meetings initiated by the Japanese government may follow the dialogue that was held a few days before North Korea's Sept. 9 nuclear test, according to the report.
Japan has refused to believe North Korea's claims that it cannot locate the whereabouts of some of the abductees on Tokyo's list, and negotiations have veered off course after some progress was made until 2014, when Pyongyang reneged on its promise to provide a preliminary report on the abductees.
Last December, Japanese media reported the two sides may have secretly met several times last November in China.
When the two sides met in Dalian in September, officials may have confirmed points of an agreement that was reached in Stockholm, Sweden, in May 2014.
Japan and North Korea had agreed Pyongyang would conduct comprehensive investigation on all Japanese citizens who were abducted and Japan would lighten some of its penalties targeting the Kim Jong Un regime, according to the foreign ministry.
In 2002, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had said of the 17 Japanese abductees officially recognized by Tokyo, five are alive in North Korea, eight have died and the remaining four were never taken to North Korea.
A dozen abductees are still officially recognized by Tokyo, but Pyongyang has said none are alive -- eight have died and four never entered the country.