Japan hopes to engage N Korea in ‘positive’ talksAgence France-Presse . Tokyo
Japan’s foreign minister vowed Wednesday to engage North Korea in ‘positive’ discussions to improve strained relations as the two countries prepared to hold rare humanitarian talks.
Japanese and North Korean Red Cross officials were due to meet in Beijing on Thursday and Friday to discuss the repatriation of the remains of Japanese who died in the north of the Korean peninsula during and immediately after Second World War.
The meeting is expected to give an indication of North Korea’s diplomatic attitude under its new leader Kim Jong-Un, who is being watched by the outside world for his readiness to change the impoverished nuclear-armed country.
The foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, said that the Beijing meeting was to be held strictly from a ‘humanitarian standpoint’ and would be limited to the question of the remains of the Japanese.
‘There is an extremely important issue between Japan and North Korea which concerns Japan’s sovereignty,’ he told a news conference, pointing to the kidnappings of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents during the Cold War.
‘We want to act in a way to make North Korea positive on unsettled questions including the abduction issue,’ Gemba said.
In 2002 North Korea admitted to kidnapping Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to teach its spies about the Japanese language and culture.
Japan maintains that Pyongyang did not tell the whole truth and has not owned up to all the abductions.
It’s perceived refusal to come clean on the issue has derailed efforts to normalise ties between the two countries. North Korea’s nuclear tests and a series of missile launches have also discouraged the rapprochement talks.
Japan colonised the Korean peninsula from 1910 until 1945 and about 34,600 Japanese died in what is now North Korea after Soviet troops entered, according to the Japanese welfare ministry.
The remains of about 13,000 Japanese have been repatriated but those of around 21,000 others are believed to be buried in the North.
The Korean peninsula was divided into the communist North and the capitalist South after Second World War.
Thursday’s meeting will be the first contact between the two Red Cross societies since August 2002, according to the Japanese Red Cross Society.
comments powered by Disqus