NEW YORK – Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi asked North Korea’s vice foreign minister here Wednesday to tell North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that it is important to both normalize ties between the two countries and get on with six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, a Japanese official said.
Koizumi told Choe Su Hon that it is important for the North to follow through on the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration in advancing the normalization of bilateral relations, the official said.
Koizumi also said it is important to use the six-party framework to resolve the standoff with North Korea over its nuclear arms program, he said.
Choe pledged to convey the message to North Korea, the official said.
The Pyongyang Declaration, signed by Koizumi and Kim during a historic summit in September 2002, calls for the resolution of issues related to the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents and the North’s missile and nuclear programs.
Koizumi spoke briefly with Choe at a reception hosted by Koichi Haraguchi, the Japanese ambassador to the United Nations, for delegates to the annual session of the U.N. General Assembly.
Koizumi also told Choe that he hopes North Korea will make sincere efforts to reinvestigate the cases of 10 missing Japanese, the official said.
North Korea has admitted to abducting eight of the 10 but has said they have since died. Pyongyang has denied that the other two Japanese entered the country. Japan has refused to accept its explanation, saying there was a lack of evidence to support their claims.
Choe said that reopening the cases has been agreed upon at the top political level, the official said.
In May, Kim promised to reinvestigate the 10 cases from scratch during a second meeting with Koizumi in Pyongyang.
The two countries are scheduled to hold working-level talks, possibly this weekend, in Beijing to discuss the abduction issue.
Choe said North Korea is taking the six-party process seriously but cannot attend meetings at present because of what North Korea considers to be a hostile U.S. policy, the official said.
He said there is a need to fully investigate South Korea’s uranium enrichment and plutonium experiments, the official said.
Koizumi told Choe that he hoped North Korea would return to the six-party talks, saying he agrees with U.S. President George W. Bush that the North Korean nuclear issue should be resolved peacefully through the six-party process, the official said.
The six-party talks involve China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States.
They have held three rounds of talks and agreed to meet for a fourth session by the end of September. But a specific date for the fresh round has yet to be set, causing observers to say that it might be difficult to hold it before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 2.