Japan presses N. Korea again on Soga

Government eager to set up reunion with husband, kids in third country

Kyodo

Japan renewed its call Saturday for North Korea’s cooperation in setting up a reunion in a third country between repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga and her American husband and their daughters, Japanese officials said.

Mitoji Yabunaka, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, made the request in a brief meeting with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan after the conclusion of the six-nation talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, the officials said.

Kim reiterated that North Korea “wants to resolve issues based on the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration” and that he will take Japan’s request back for the North Korean government, they said.

The declaration, signed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Kim Jong Il at a summit in Pyongyang in September 2002, commits the two countries to step up efforts to establish diplomatic ties by comprehensively resolving pending bilateral issues.

The officials said Yabunaka also indirectly mentioned the abduction issue in his closing remarks at the six-nation talks.

“Resolving various issues between Japan and North Korea comprehensively will contribute to the peace and stability of Northeast Asia,” Yabunaka was quoted by officials as saying.

Japan has been seeking a comprehensive resolution to North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues as well as the abduction issue.

Yabunaka and Kim are chief delegates of their respective countries to the six-way talks, which also involve China, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

The two met briefly on the second day of the talks Thursday, in which Yabunaka expressed Japan’s hope in arranging the reunion for Soga’s family at an early date and urged North Korea to reinvestigate the fates of 10 missing Japanese citizens.

Kim promised to “cooperate as necessary” on the reunion issue.

A Foreign Ministry official has told Kyodo News that the Japanese and North Korean foreign ministers are arranging to meet Thursday in Jakarta on the sidelines of an Asian Regional Forum meeting.

Final arrangements are being made for Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi to meet her North Korean counterpart, Paek Nam Sun, on Thursday afternoon in the Indonesian capital to discuss Soga’s family reuniting, the official said.

Kawaguchi also plans to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday and with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda on Friday.

Tokyo has proposed through an unofficial diplomatic channel that Soga be reunited with her husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, and their two daughters on the Indonesian resort island of Bali by July 23.

They are still in North Korea because Jenkins, a former U.S. soldier listed as a deserter, refused to come to Japan for fear he will be extradited for a U.S. court-martial.

Bali has been proposed as a reunion site because Indonesia has no extradition treaty with the United States.

The government plans to do its best to persuade the United States to enable Jenkins to live with Soga if he comes to Japan after the envisaged reunion, Koizumi said Thursday during a live interview on NHK.

A meeting in July 2002 between Kawaguchi and Paek preceded the landmark summit between Koizumi and Kim in Pyongyang in September that year.

Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties.

Following the second summit with Kim on May 22, Koizumi brought five North Korean-born children of four former abductees to Japan, but not Soga’s family due to Jenkins’ refusal to travel.