May 22, 2014 4:31 am JST

North Korean secret police in touch with Japan

TOKYO -- A North Korean intelligence agency has been in communication with Japan, raising hopes that Pyongyang will comply with Tokyo's request to reinvestigate the whereabouts of Japanese nationals abducted decades ago.

     Bilateral talks began this January. North Korea's State Security Department has been in contact with Japan, and representatives of the agency are expected to attend the next round of discussions in Stockholm next Monday through Wednesday. The two countries last held official talks in Beijing at the end of March.

     Tokyo intends to inform Pyongyang that it is willing to ease sanctions if North Korea complies with the request regarding the abductees.

     While little is known about the State Security Department, it acts as a secret police force that cracks down on political offenses and purges anti-government forces within North Korea. Japanese abductees are under its supervision, according to sources.

     The department's participation in bilateral talks "could be a sign that North Korea is getting serious about dialogue with Japan," a Japanese official says.

     Japan intends to have officials from such bodies as the Cabinet Secretariat, which has been gathering information on the abductees, accompany its delegation to Stockholm so that it can verify the authenticity of information provided by North Korea.