Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)
yesterday wrapped up two days of talks on establishing diplomatic
relations without visible progress in disputes over key issues that
have hampered efforts to improve bilateral ties.
But the World War II foes agreed to meet again and strive to
normalize diplomatic relations.
The talks in the Mongolian capital kicked off with guarded
optimism, after Washington and Pyongyang appeared to move forward
in similar discussions at the weekend.
But the Japanese and DPRK envoys failed to score a breakthrough
in the thorny row over the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by
DPRK agents decades ago - the resolution of which Tokyo has made a
condition of normalizing ties.
Japan's chief negotiator, Yoshiki Mine, said the DPRK had
refused to take action to resolve the abduction row.
"We had in-depth and lengthy discussions on the abduction issue
in the morning," Mine said. "We stressed that it is indispensable
for us to normalize diplomatic relations after resolving the
abduction issue. We urged the North Korean (DPRK) side to take
A DPRK delegate said his team had repeated Pyongyang's position
that the case on abductions was closed.
"The relations between Japan and North Korea (DPRK) are at the
worst level now," DPRK delegate Kim Chol-ho told reporters after
But he said Pyongyang was ready for more talks with Tokyo.
"We think that the meeting was held in a very serious atmosphere
and both sides reaffirmed their commitments to previous
agreements," Kim said. "We need to meet more often."
Pyongyang admitted in 2002 that its agents had abducted 13
Japanese, sparking outrage in Japan.
Five of them were repatriated that same year, but Pyongyang says
the other eight are dead. Tokyo wants more information about the
eight and four others it says were also kidnapped, and wants any
survivors sent home.
The bilateral talks are one of the building blocks in a
six-party process also involving the United States, China, the
Republic of Korea and Russia, aimed at persuading Pyongyang to
abandon its nuclear weapons.
During the talks in Ulan Bator, the DPRK demanded that Japan
make compensation for its often-brutal colonial rule of the Korean
peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
"Although pending issues have not been resolved through the two
days of talks, I believe it was meaningful to have been able to
exchange views thoroughly," Mine said.
Tokyo would consider setting up a committee to look into
compensation if Pyongyang agreed to reopen the kidnapping
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed disappointment with
the lack of progress over the abduction issue.
"The abduction issue is very important. Therefore, unless there
is progress on this issue, we cannot say we have achieved anything
even if we are simply discussing it," Abe told reporters.
Japan paid hundreds of millions of dollars under a 1965
agreement normalizing relations with the Republic of Korea.
Analysts say an equivalent sum was likely to be required to
establish ties with the DPRK.
But making such a payment would be politically difficult while
the fate of the abductees remains unclear.
(China Daily via agencies September 7 2007)