The talks between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Japan ended in Beijing Wednesday but the two sides agreed to continue negotiations at a later date.
No definite date or venue for the next round of talks has been suggested, but officials announced that the two countries agreed to settle differences through diplomatic channels.
Song Il Ho, ambassador of the DPRK in charge of the DPRK-Japan talks, told the press in a Beijing hotel after a 30-minute meeting on Wednesday morning that the two sides had engaged in honest and open-minded discussions.
He admitted that the DPRK and Japan had discovered large differences during the five days of talks.
"We need to work on to narrow the differences." he said.
At a press briefing at the Japanese embassy at noon, Japanese chief negotiator Koichi Haraguchi confirmed that the two sides had reached some agreement and that they would continue to hold similar talks.
It is significant that Japan and the DPRK could resume these talks after such a long interval, Haraguchi said. However, he also expressed his regret that no major progress was achieved.
From January 1991 to October 2002, the two countries went through 12 rounds of negotiations to try to improve diplomatic ties. Severe differences on many issues handicapped the process.
It has been more than three years since the two countries last met for talks in Malaysia in 2002.
Jin Linbo, a professor with the China Institute of International Studies, said it was no surprise that the two sides failed to make any progress during this latest round of talks because the gulf in their opinions is so wide.
"But it is significant that the DPRK and Japan demonstrated their willingness to improve bilateral relations through these talks," he added.
The great divide over the abduction issue is the major stumbling block.
During the talks, Japan reiterated the need to resolve the abduction issue before improving diplomatic ties and providing economic assistance.
At a press conference held at the DPRK embassy, Song Il Ho, chief negotiator for the DPRK side, said his country had made efforts to resolve the abduction issue.
He maintained the issue should not become a barrier that obstructs the repairing of relations.
The DPRK will continue to make efforts to resolve the problems between the two countries based on the principles of the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration, he added.
The closed-door talks, which started on Feb. 4, dealt with the abduction issue, diplomatic ties and security issue.
Diplomats from both countries formed three groups to discuss these topics.
Vice Director of the DPRK Foreign Ministry's Asian Affairs Department Kim Chol Ho and Deputy Chief of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Kunio Umeda met on Sunday to air their views and stances on the abduction issue. The two sides agreed to continue the talks on despite their huge differences.
Japanese ambassador Koichi Haraguchi and his DPRK counterpart Song Il Ho talked about the strengthening of diplomatic ties on Monday, but no full consensus was reached.
On Tuesday morning, Tadamichi Yamamoto, Japanese ambassador responsible for the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, and Jong Thae Yang, deputy chief of the DPRK Foreign Ministry's U.S. affairs department, discussed mainly the nuclear missile issue and East Asian peace.
Kim Chol Ho and Kunio Umeda resumed the abduction topic on Tuesday afternoon with still no major progress achieved.
"Maintaining dialogue is more important than the substance of this current round of talks," said Jin Xide, an analyst on Japan-related issues from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "It does help the two to move forward. They have finished an interim round of talks instead of a final one."
Some analysts believe that the recent talks show that it is possible for the two sides to make progress in improving diplomatic relations.