TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will hold talks with North Korea next week to work out the details of Pyongyang's plan to reinvestigate the fate of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the reclusive state decades ago, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday.
Since North Korea last month agreed to reopen the probe, Japan has been waiting eagerly to see how it will be carried out, as it could potentially bring about a breakthrough in a bitter dispute between the two east Asian nations.
"The Japanese government believes it is important that their special investigation committee is vested with authority to conduct a probe into all institutions, and that the investigation will actually get started," Kishida said.
"From this standpoint, we plan to carefully assess North Korea's explanation during this upcoming meeting," he told reporters.
The move comes against the backdrop of Tuesday's announcement by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he was not now considering a visit to North Korea, adding that he would adopt "the most effective" way of dealing with Pyongyang after the two countries moved to improve ties.
The probe meeting will be held in Beijing on July 1, with Japan represented by Junichi Ihara, director-general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, while senior diplomat Song Il-ho will lead the North Korean delegates.
North Korea promised in 2008 to re-open the probe, but it never followed through. It also reneged on promises made in multilateral talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programme and declared the negotiations had ended.
North Korea admitted in 2002 to kidnapping Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies. Five abductees and their families returned to Japan.
It has said the eight remaining were dead and that the issue was closed, but Japan has pressed for more information about their fate and others Tokyo believes were also kidnapped.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)