Normalizing Pyongyang ties good for all but hurdles remain: Koizumi

Kyodo

Two years after his historic first visit to Pyongyang, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Thursday that Japan and North Korea still have several hurdles to clear before they can normalize diplomatic ties.

“Many difficult problems remain, including the abductions, the nuclear (arms) and missile issues, but I think it hinges on how both sides will sincerely implement the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration,” Koizumi told reporters in a Brasilia hotel.

“Changing the hostile relationship between Japan and North Korea into a friendly one is important for both countries, for the Korean Peninsula, for Asia and the world, and our policy based on this recognition will not change.”

Koizumi, in the Brazilian capital as part of an 11-day tour of Brazil, Mexico and the United States, spoke to reporters on the eve of the second anniversary of his first summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Il.

On Sept. 17 two years ago, Koizumi — the first Japanese prime minister to visit the reclusive state — and Kim signed the bilateral declaration, vowing to work to normalize diplomatic ties after resolving the abductions and other issues.

Koizumi at the time managed to secure the repatriation of five abductees, the only ones Pyongyang claims survived, the following month. On his second summit there last May, he managed to get the North to allow the North Korean-born offspring of the five, and the American husband of one of them, to come to Japan.

But negotiations have since stalled over 10 other missing Japanese, eight of whom North Korea claims have died and two others it says never entered the country. Many in Japan meanwhile believe more Japanese were abducted and are demanding answers.

As for the nuclear threat, Japan has sought a resolution as part of ongoing six-nation talks involving the United States, the Koreas, China and Russia, but the parties have yet to set the date for their next round, which had been eyed for Sept. 30.

“People often criticize without grounds that I’m rushing to normalize diplomatic ties (with the North), but it’s not about rushing or not rushing. Normalizing Japan-North Korea relations will benefit both countries,” Koizumi said.

Jenkins put to work Alleged U.S. Army deserter Sgt. Charles Jenkins began full-time duty Friday at Camp Zama, said Maj. John Amberg, the camp’s chief spokesman.

The army posted photos on its Web site of Jenkins in uniform organizing files and receiving computer training. He went through procedures to return to active duty after arriving at the camp Sept. 11.

The 64-year-old sergeant will assist in coordinating unit training and maintaining files for an administrative support unit of the camp in Kanagawa Prefecture, according to the U.S. Army in Japan.

The Army said that while Jenkins carries out his military work, it is proceeding with legal action to determine his fate.

Jenkins will probably seek a plea bargain for a dishonorable discharge. He is expected to provide the U.S. military with such information as the whereabouts of U.S. and South Korean soldiers who deserted or were abducted to North Korea.

He is staying at Camp Zama with his wife, Hitomi Soga, who was abducted to North Korea in 1978, and their two North Korea-born daughters.