For the first time in 16 months, diplomats from North Korea and Japan met to discuss numerous issues pertaining to both their governments, including the North’s nuclear weapons program. Held in Beijing for two days, the talks ended on a positive note as North Korea seemed to be more forthcoming to discuss the kidnapping of many Japanese citizens by spies some years ago.
Speaking to reporters, Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese foreign ministry’s Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau said, “We had serious and frank discussions on wide-ranging pending issues of mutual interest.” He added, “We agreed to continue government-to-government consultations with the next round to be arranged through our embassies in Beijing.” The meeting continued as North Korean troops fired hundreds of rounds of live artillery across their nations’ disputed maritime borders. While North Korea’s relationship with the South remains to be bitter, it seemed to be more amiable and open towards Japan, especially with the issue of the abductions.
More than a decade ago, North Korea admitted that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train their spies with the local language and customs. While five were freed and allowed to return, the remaining eight were said to have died, although North Korea was not able to produce evidence of their death. The incident angered Japan and the ties between the two have been strained since. During the meeting, Ihara presented their government’s “basic ideas” on the kidnappings to which “the North Korean side responded in a manner not to refuse discussions.” He also objected the threat of more nuclear tests and launch of ballistic missiles. North Korea, on the other hand, demanded compensation for the atrocities they experienced during Japan’s colonial expansion to the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945.
[via Global Post]