Hiroshi Nakai, a former state minister for dealing with Pyongyang’s past abductions of Japanese nationals, secretly met with North Korea’s ambassador for normalization talks last week in Changchun, China, sources said Monday.
Nakai, a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan who now chairs the House of Representatives Budget Committee, met with Song Il Ho apparently to make preparations for the resumption of bilateral talks, including over how to resolve the abduction issue.
Nakai was accompanied on his visit to China by an official from the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue under the Cabinet Office, the sources said.
The meeting between the Japanese and North Korean officials comes at a time when U.S.-North Korea talks are set to be held this week in New York and also after North and South Korea met on the sidelines of the annual ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum held in Bali, Indonesia, last Saturday.
According to the sources, Nakai held several talks with Song at a hotel in Changchun on Wednesday and Thursday.
They are believed to have discussed the agreement reached by North Korea and Japan in August 2008 under which Pyongyang would reinvestigate, by that fall, the fate of abducted Japanese whom North Korea claims have already died or never entered the country.
They may also have discussed conditions for the resumption of Japan-North Korea normalization talks.
Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto at a Diet session Monday expressed his intention to urge North Korea to swiftly launch the reinvestigation into the abductions as agreed to by the two countries in 2008.
Seoul lawmaker irked
Hong Joon Pyo, chief of South Korea’s ruling Grand National Party, on Monday urged the Seoul government to ban a group of Japanese opposition lawmakers from visiting an island near the South-administered Dokdo islets in a bid to lay claim to the disputed territory.
“Their visit to our territory is aimed at denying the constitutional order of the Republic of Korea,” Hong said in a senior party meeting, referring to South Korea by its official name, according to Yonhap news agency.
“The Justice Ministry should bar the rightwing Japanese lawmakers from entering our nation,” Hong said.
Four Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers said last week they plan to tour Ulleungdo Island in August. Ulleungdo is South Korea’s administrative and military defense base for the Dokdo islets, known in Japan as Takeshima.