Japan and North Korea were in close contact for a second day, officials said Thursday, as the countries seek to find enough common ground for possible future discussions at a higher level.
Diplomats from the two sides held their first face-to-face encounter in four years Wednesday in Beijing, in relatively low-level talks Japan characterised as "matter-of-fact and frank."
The countries, which have no formal diplomatic relations, have long been at odds over numerous issues including North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens and the legacy of Japan's colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.
Beyond their bilateral relationship, however, the meetings in China's capital are being closely watched for any clues as to whether North Korea's foreign policy could change under new leader Kim Jong-Un.
Kim, believed to be in his late 20s, took over leadership of the communist state after his father Kim Jong-Il died in December.
Diplomats began the second day of meetings shortly before midday at North Korea's embassy after having met the previous day at Japan's diplomatic mission, according to a Japanese official, who declined to be named.
Thursday's encounter ended after a little less than two hours and the two sides were keeping in touch, though it was unclear if they would gather again, said the official with the Japanese embassy.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura emphasised that the talks were very much alive even if Thursday's physical meeting had ended for the time being.
"We have continued coordination with each other," he told a news conference.
Japanese broadcaster NHK television reported North Korean and Japanese diplomats were staying in contact by phone while receiving instructions from their governments.
In another sign the sides were making some headway, news agency Jiji press said Japan's delegation had postponed its return to Tokyo until Friday.
A key issue for Japan is the fate of its citizens abducted by North Korean agents to help train spies, amid suspicions that Pyongyang has failed to provide all the information it has about them.
"The abduction issue is among the most important of the various problems between Japan and North Korea," Fujimura said.
"As a matter of course, there won't be any change in our stance that we want to discuss it."
Secretive North Korea admitted in 2002 its agents kidnapped Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies by teaching them Japanese language and culture, and later allowed five of them and their families to return home.
It said a number of others died, though many in Japan hold out hope they remain alive. There are also suspicions that Pyongyang's agents abducted more Japanese than they admitted.
Japan says North Korea agreed to reopen investigations into the fate of abducted Japanese when the two sides last met in 2008.
Impoverished yet highly militarised North Korea remains suspicious of Japan, which is a close military ally of the United States.
Pyongyang also regularly blasts Japan for its colonisation of the Korean peninsula in the first half of the 20th century and treatment of ethnic Koreans in Japan.