BEIJING – The North Korean Red Cross has agreed to work on repatriating the remains of Japanese who died on the Korean Peninsula during and immediately after the war, the Japanese Red Cross Society said Friday.
The agreement was reached during a two-day meeting between the two societies that wrapped up in Beijing the same day. It was their first negotiations since August 2002.
The meeting did not address the abductions of Japanese nationals by the North’s agents in the 1970s and ’80s, Osamu Tasaka, head of the International Department of the Japanese Red Cross, told a news conference after the meeting.
The two sides agreed to hold another meeting soon but did not set a date, according to Tasaka, who led the Japanese delegation. In the meantime, each side will seek cooperation from its government over the matter.
“We exchanged opinions honestly and seriously, and I felt that the North Korean side is willing to resolve the (remains) issue,” Tasaka said. “Overall, I think the meeting was a success.”
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimates that the corpses of 21,600 Japanese remain buried in North Korea. The entire peninsula was under Japan’s colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
In Beijing, the North Korean Red Cross provided the Japanese participants with information about locations and the quantity of remains discovered to date, Tasaka said, declining to give further details.
Tokyo has repeatedly asked Pyongyang to allow relatives of the deceased to visit burial sites in the North. Tasaka quoted representatives of the North Korean group as saying Pyongyang would “welcome such visits at any time.”
The Japanese Red Cross, meanwhile, offered its condolences to the North Korean participants over the severe damage caused by recent flooding to the country’s people and farmland.
The meeting was attended by three officials from the Japanese Red Cross, including Tasaka, and three from its North Korean counterpart, including Secretary General Ri Ho Rim.