Japan’s stance will be to swap “action for action” with North Korea in formal bilateral talks starting Wednesday on the unresolved abductions of Japanese nationals by Pyongyang’s agents, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Tuesday.
“If our counterpart makes a significant step forward and takes concrete action, then we, too, will take a big step in response. If it is a small step, ours will also be small,” he said. “The other side has first to carry out what it should do, and we will evaluate that to see what kind of action is deemed appropriate on our side.”
Japan and North Korea, along with China, South Korea, Russia and the United States, have agreed in the six-party talks to take an “action for action” approach toward the North’s denuclearization and settling other pending bilateral issues.
Tokyo has agreed to “settle the wartime past” with North Korea in the form of reparations for Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, and to normalize ties with the North if the abduction, nuclear arms and missile issues are resolved.
“The six-party talks require both sides to take concrete actions respectively,” Komura told reporters.
Asked if there is expectation that more abductees could be found and returned to Japan as a result of the two-day talks, he said: “We can’t be optimistic that the victims will in reality be repatriated immediately. But we want to proceed with the talks with strong hopes for some kind of progress toward the eventual return of all of them.”
The working-level talks in Beijing will be held between Akitaka Saiki, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Song Il Ho, North Korea’s ambassador for normalization talks with Japan.
The dispute over the number of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the fates of some of them, remain a major obstacle that has prevented the two sides from normalizing ties.
Five abductees were allowed to return to Japan in 2002, and Tokyo has repeatedly demanded that Pyongyang reopen or newly investigate the cases of at least another dozen who remain missing.