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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The Japanese government must lift its “hostile” unilateral sanctions on North Korea if the two countries are to hold a summit, a Tokyo-based pro-Pyongyang organ said on Tuesday.
A commentary carried by the Choson Sinbo — an organ of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) — urged Japan to take the measures in response to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent stated desire to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “without conditions.”
In an interview with the Sankei Shimbun in May, Abe said he wanted to “talk with him frankly with an open mind.”
But the Choson Sinbo on Tuesday said “actions” would be necessary if Tokyo wants to prove the sincerity of the prime minister’s remarks.
“The unilateral sanctions, which are an intensive expression of a hostile policy against the DPRK, should be lifted,” the newspaper said in a commentary written by Kim Ji Yong.
The “hostile” Japanese policy against the DPRK has not changed, the Choson Sinbo argued, citing Tokyo’s decision to extend its sanctions against the North by two years in April as one example.
The pro-Pyongyang organ also denounced the Japanese government for recent comments that Chongryon remains subject to the Subversive Activities Prevention Act, which stipulates necessary control measures for organizations linked to terroristic and subversive activities.
In response to a question from Lower House member Jin Matsubara, the Japanese government said in May that it “can’t deny the possibility that the association will conduct destructive activities depending on future circumstances” in a statement carried by the Japan Times.
“It is also necessary [for Tokyo] to express the will to settle history and take action to ensure the rights and interests of Chongryon and Korean residents in Japan, which is one of the most important tasks,” the Choson Sinbo said.
“Repeatedly calling for dialogue without action is nothing more than a trick to mislead public opinion that aims to distract the people’s attention,” it continued.
“The Prime Minister’s mythomania with regard to DPRK issues amplifies the distrust of the counterpart for dialogue.”
The Choson Sinbo claimed that Abe’s “intention remains unchanged” even though he had expressed his will to hold the summit unconditionally, saying there was “no scintilla of neighborly friendship” in his remarks.
The “standard for judgment is Tokyo’s stance and attitude toward the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration,” signed in September 2002 as an outcome of the summit between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, it added.
“The core of the declaration to realize the normalization of diplomatic relations was based on Japan’s settlement of past history,” the Choson Sinbo said. “But Prime Minister Abe has not expressed his will to settle the past, despite saying he would hold a summit with the DPRK.”
The Chongryon organ also criticized Tokyo’s calls for the abduction issue and the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs to be discussed should a summit take place — likely a reference to recent comments by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Following Abe’s interview in May, Suga said that the prime minister has said he would meet with Kim Jong Un to “resolve the North Korean nuclear, missile problems, and most importantly, the abduction issue.”
In the Korean-language commentary, the Choson Sinbo emphasized that the abduction issue has been used by Japan as a means to “incite confrontation with the DPRK” and prohibit the implementation of the two countries’ joint declaration.
“Nuclear and missile issues are not matters that can be discussed between the DPRK and Japan,” it said. “We came to the conclusion that this is not a stance of wanting to engage in serious dialogue to improve relations.”
The Choson Sinbo also said the DPRK is aware of Abe’s political posture, denouncing his actions as impeding the implementation of the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration and as the cause of the failure of that joint agreement.
“The remarks of a politician who fails to keep faith and promises between countries will never receive positive responses.”
Japan and North Korea previously agreed to conduct a “comprehensive and full-scale investigation” into missing Japanese nationals in the North at Japan-North Korea Intergovernmental Consultations in Stockholm in May 2014.
The Choson Sinbo said the investigation had been suspended and the special investigation committee was disbanded as “Japan’s hostility and confrontational posture against the DPRK became conspicuous” — a reference to Tokyo’s unilateral sanctions.
February 2016 saw Pyongyang condemn Tokyo for implementing unilateral sanctions following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test on January 6 and the test-launch of a long-range rocket on February 7 in the same year.
In the commentary Tuesday, the organ also explained why Pyongyang had rejectly “firmly rejected” Abe’s comments on his hopes for a summit through a statement issued by a spokesperson for the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC).
Since the statement was delivered by the KAPPC and not the DPRK foreign ministry, it said, the North was “deliberately confirming” its belief that such matters should not be handled at the “diplomatic level.”
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: White House