North Korea and Japan kicked off their Red Cross talks Monday morning in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang the first such meeting since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in late 2012.
The three-day talks will focus on the repatriation of the remains of Japanese nationals who died in North Korea during World War 2.
The discussions, proposed by the North, will be led by Ri Ho Rim, secretary general of the North's Red Cross Society and Osamu Tasaka, director general of the International Department at the Japanese Red Cross.
Also, with top senior diplomats from both foreign ministries attending the Red Cross Meeting, there is speculation Japan wants to talk about Pyongyang repatriating Japanese abductees still alive in the North.
The Japanese government lists 17 nationals it believes were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.
Tokyo, however, suspects Pyongyang may have kidnapped more Japanese nationals.
Five abductees were repatriated to Japan in 2002.
Japan has been requesting North Korea reinvestigate where the abductees are, and North Korea is continuing to urge Tokyo to compensate for the suffering of the Korean people during Japan's brutal colonization of the Korean peninsula in the early to mid 20th century.
"The Japanese government will address current outstanding bilateral issues including the abduction of Japanese nationals and will attempt to bring a proactive attitude out of North Korea."
In what could be a first step toward resuming full-blown, official discussions between North Korea and Japan, eyes are focused on whether the Red Cross meetings will lead to formal bilateral talks between the two governments.
Back in 2012, the first government-level meeting between the two countries was held in four years after similar Red Cross discussionsbut follow-up talks were scrapped after North Korea launched a long-range rocket.
Connie Kim, Arirang News.