Japan and North Korea on Monday began a new round of official talks to normalize diplomatic relations in Stockholm, Sweden.
The three-day talks followed the previous round held in late March in Beijing. As with the Beijing session, the Japanese delegation is led by Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and Song Il Ho, Pyongyang’s ambassador for normalizing relations with Japan.
“Japan has imposed various sanctions on North Korea in cooperation with the international community,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday at a speech at Chuo University in Tokyo.
“Considering North Korea’s current difficult circumstances, we have achieved some positive results, and those pressures led to a resumption of official talks,” Kishida said.
Kishida also said that Japan will consider lifting some sanctions on North Korea in phases depending on whether Pyongyang shows concrete efforts to solve the long-standing issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in late 1970s and early 80s.
In previous sessions, the Japanese delegation has demanded that North Korea launch a fresh investigation into the fate of those abducted Japanese nationals. Pyongyang on the other hand, maintains its stand that the abduction issue has already been resolved.
In August 2008, the two nations agreed to complete a re-investigation into the Japanese abductees in North Korea, But then prime minister Yasuo Fukuda abruptly resigned. Negotiations on the abduction issue have stalled and no action has taken since then.
“Other than Japan, North Korea has a strained relationship with other nations such as South Korea and the US,” Hideshi Takesada, an expert on regional security at Takushoku University in Tokyo, told NK News on Monday. “So it must be serious enough to respond to Japan’s demand this time.”
“By holding negotiations with Japan, Pyongyang is also trying to make President Park Geun-hye’s administration feel unpleasant intentionally,” Takesada pointed out.
Lee Young-hwa, an expert on Korea and an economics professor at Kansai University in Osaka, disagreed with Takesada’s views.
Lee said North Korea has improved relations with China, which soured following the execution of Jang Song Thaek last December, damaging Japan’s improving ties with Pyongyang.
“Japan-North Korea negotiations will stall sooner or later,” said Lee, who is a third-generation ethnic Korean resident of Japan.
In Stockholm, Pyongyang is expected to call on the Japanese government to block the sale of the Tokyo headquarters building of Chongryon, the main pro-North Korea organization in Japan.
The Tokyo High Court recently dismissed the appeal filed by Chongryon against the sale of the building and land to Marunaka Holdings, a property investment company based in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture in western Japan.
“Pyongyang will bring up this thorny issue at negotiating table to kill negotiations,” Lee also said.
Takesada took a different view by saying “the sale of Chongryon’s headquarters is not something which will cause Pyongyang to kill negotiations with Japan.”
Picture: Abhimanyu, Flickr Creative Commons
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