N. Korea talks end; no progress reported

Kyodo

Japan pressed North Korea on Sunday to provide fuller accounts of 10 Japanese who Tokyo says were abducted by Pyongyang agents, but the North did not provide new information as they wrapped up two days of talks, Japan’s chief delegate said.

Calling the results insufficient, Japan proposed that the next round of talks be held next month, or at the latest by mid-November, said Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.

“No documents were presented as evidence of their efforts,” Saiki said. “The results were very unfortunate and insufficient.”

However, Japanese government sources said North Korea did admit that the timing when it claimed Megumi Yokota, one of the missing 10, died was wrong. North had said Yokota, who was abducted in 1977 at age 13, died in March 1993.

Saiki said he could not reveal what North Korea said of Yokota during the talks until he speaks first with her family.

Japan also reiterated its “serious concern” over North Korea’s reported plan to test-fire a ballistic missile.

The government sources said the talks touched on North Korea’s nuclear program and the recent reported explosion in the country that initially prompted worries of an accident or even a nuclear blast.

In Japan, Shinzo Abe, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also said no progress had been achieved in Beijing and that Japan may have to impose economic sanctions against North Korea unless it addresses the abduction issue in a sincere manner.

Relatives of the abductees expressed anger at North Korea for providing no new information, and called on the Japanese government to impose economic sanctions and take other tough measures.

“I wasn’t expecting much out of North Korea’s reinvestigation to begin with,” said Kayoko Arimoto, the mother of abductee Keiko Arimoto. “I don’t want the government to waste any more time, I just want them to go ahead with economic sanctions.”

On Saturday, North Korea conveyed to Japan an interim report on the reinvestigation of the 10 abduction cases. Foreign Ministry sources said the first day’s report only listed what some of the people did after entering North Korea.

“We asked questions regarding the explanations given by North Korea on the missing people,” Saiki told reporters after the morning session.

The two sides met for 90 minutes at a Beijing hotel Sunday afternoon, after a morning session at the North Korean Embassy that lasted three hours.

Song Il Ho, vice director of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department and head of the North Korean delegation, said after the talks that the two sides held in-depth discussions.

During the talks, the North Korean side also renewed a call on the United States to abandon what Pyongyang terms a “hostile policy” in order to have an early resumption of six-party talks on the North’s nuclear ambitions, the Japanese government sources said.

“We want the United States to abandon its hostile policy,” Song was quoted as saying.

He made the remarks after Saiki stressed the need to hold another round of the six-party talks at an early date, the sources said.

Song responded that he would convey Japan’s position to the North Korean government.

China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States agreed in June to convene the fourth round of the six-way talks by the end of September, but chances are all but gone for the talks to be reconvened largely due to resistance by the North.

A senior official at the Foreign Ministry said recently that Pyongyang is also dragging its heels because of recent revelations of South Korea’s past covert uranium enrichment and plutonium experiments.

Song dismissed a view that North Korea is waiting for the results of the Nov. 2 U.S. presidential election before the resumption of the six-way talks, the sources said.

Japan also asked North Korea to launch a separate bilateral security talks at an early date.