Senior officials of Japan and North Korea are set to meet in Beijing on Tuesday. The Japanese side wants to know how serious the North is about investigating the fate of missing Japanese citizens.
Junichi Ihara, chief of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, leads the Japanese delegates. North Korea will be represented by its envoy for normalizing ties with Japan, Song Il Ho.
Pyongyang pledged in May to set up a panel to investigate the whereabouts of Japanese citizens it abducted decades ago.
The Japanese officials want reassurance that the panel will have the authority to probe agencies throughout the country. They also want to know if the head of the North's secret police is on the panel.
They will report their findings to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other relevant ministers who will decide whether to partially lift economic sanctions against the North.
The Japanese officials are also expected to protest over the North's launch of ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on Sunday, which they will say violates UN Security Council resolutions.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday the lifting of sanctions depends partly on the North's explanation for the missile launch.
Jun. 30, 2014 - Updated 23:17 UTC