Japanese envoy to visit China for talks with North Korea
TOKYO: A senior Japanese diplomat will visit China soon for talks with North Korean officials focused on a standoff over Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese nationals around 20 years ago, it was reported on Sunday.
The abduction issue has been the biggest obstacle to the normalisation of relations between North Korea and Japan. The foreign ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau director general, Mitoji Yabunaka, is expected to hold talks with the North Koreans in China as early as this week, the Kyodo news agency said, quoting diplomatic sources.
Yabunaka is expected to urge North Korea to return Japanese citizens and their families kidnapped by Pyongyang’s agents in the Cold War era. He may be accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka, who is said to have good connections with North Korean government authorities, Kyodo said. North Korea admitted for the first time in late 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to use for training spies in Japanese language and culture.
Eight of them were said to have died and the five survivors were allowed to visit Japan a few months after the admission. They have refused to go back to North Korea. Tokyo is demanding the survivors’ seven children and the US husband of one of them be allowed to settle in Japan and that the deaths of the other eight kidnap victims be explained in full.
It suspects that the eight are still alive and that dozens more Japanese might have also been spirited away to the secretive country.
Despite this accusation, North Korea is widely seen as eager to normalise ties with its rich neighbour, which could result in massive economic aid from Japan to the impoverished and isolated Stalinist state. Last month Japan decided to send medical kits and burn treatment worth 100,000 dollars to North Korea for victims of an April 22 train blast which killed more than 150 people and left 1,300 injured in Ryongchon near the border with China. —AFP