After six hours of Red Cross talks in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang on Monday, North Korea agreed to cooperate in repatriating the remains of Japanese nationals, although more specifics were not released.
The three-day talks, the first since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in late 2012, were proposed by the North.
They were 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.
Ri said soon after the meeting that officials from both countries need to meet regularly to discuss the repatriation issue.
Top senior diplomats from both foreign ministries attended the meeting, but there is speculation that Japan wants to talk about Pyongyang repatriating Japanese abductees who are 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.
Five abductees were repatriated to Japan in 2002.
Japan has been requesting that North Korea reinvestigate where the abductees are.
North Korea continues 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.
Kim Hyun-bin, Arirang News.