LONDON – New Japan Pro Wrestling founder Antonio Inoki wants to play more of a role in resolving bilateral problems between his country and North Korea, the wrestler-turned politician said Monday.
Inoki, who spent five days in North Korea to attend “Victory Day” celebrations in July, wants to help set the stage for summit talks between Japan and North Korea, Kyodo News said.
The wrestler, 70, was quoted as saying that he wants to “create an environment where one-on-one talks could be held” between Japan and North Korea.
Inoki has visited North Korea over 20 times and has good relations with senior party members there.
During his latest trip Inoki met with Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK, the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said on July 28.
No details of the “courtesy call” meeting with Kim were published by KCNA, but Inoki later told reporters that Kim had “called for the two countries to take a half step back and present ideas toward normalizing relations,” the Japan News said.
Prior to his North Korea trip Inoki stressed that he would like to play a more active role in resolving the decades-old issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. He made the suggestion while announcing his candidacy for July 2013 Upper House elections in Japan.
Despite being elected to Japan’s Upper House as a member of Nippon Ishin no Kai, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga warned on July 26 that the Tokyo government did not agree with Inoki’s trip to North Korea.
“We have also asked Mr. Inoki to refrain” from visiting the country, Suga told reporters, adding that Inoki, would “not represent the Japanese government,” the Japan Daily Press said.
In May a special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Isao Iijima, visited North Korea. Analysts speculated that the goal of Iijima’s trip was to make progress on the Japanese abduction issue.
Inoki is well known for organizing the world’s largest wrestling tournament to ever take place in Pyongyang. “Collision in Korea” included well known American wrestlers and even a cameo appearance by boxing champion Muhammad Ali.
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