Koizumi turned down DPJ offer to visit North Korea, pay condolences after Kim’s death

Kyodo

The government asked former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to visit North Korea in early January and offer Japan’s condolences over the death of Kim Jong Il, hoping to improve bilateral relations, but he rejected the proposal, government sources said Saturday.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan thought the gesture might lead to the resumption of stalled bilateral talks, and its executives sounded out the former Liberal Democratic Party leader, the sources said.

But Koizumi, who visited Pyongyang in September 2002 and May 2004 as prime minister to hold talks with Kim, told them that “Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda should do this.”

In February though, people close to Koizumi approached the prime minister’s office and indicated his willingness to visit the North around March 26, immediately after its national 100-day mourning period for Kim ended, the sources said.

The government began making arrangements for the trip with Pyongyang through an informal channel, but the prime minister’s office started expressing reservations about the plan, they said.

According to the sources, the prime minister’s office felt uncertain about Koizumi’s motives and feared his visit might only benefit the LDP, now the main opposition party.

The plan was abandoned in early March.