Masaru Sato, spokesperson for the Japanese Foreign Ministry, said Saturday that Tokyo and Pyongyang have reached an agreement to meet again after last week’s discussions produced no breakthroughs on certain key issues. The meeting was the first senior-level talks since 2008 between the two countries.
The meeting, which took place in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, was preceded by lower-level negotiations in August of 2008. Some government officials have lauded the agreement as a step forward in resolving long-standing issues that have prevented the establishment of formal diplomatic relations with North Korea’s highly secretive government. The most critical stumbling block between the two is the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea during the 1970′s and 1980′s. Although there was minimum progress in trying to resolve the issue, the decision to still continue with dialogue regarding the matter is itself an improvement. Other points of contention between the two governments is the North’s nuclear programs and Japan’s wartime past.
Some, however, see the push for talks with North Korea as the Japanese government’s desperate move to improve its standing as the country faces another general election next month. The negotiations might also be a means for North Korea to alleviate its stagnating economy. Analysts believe that Pyongyang is hoping for aid from Japan to resuscitate its economy and, at the same time, keep its doors open for talks with the U.S., Japan’s biggest ally in the West.
[ via Washington Post ]