WASHINGTON – The United States agreed to a Japanese request Saturday to discuss at upcoming talks with North Korea the alleged abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents and the extradition to Japan of the hijackers of a passenger plane in 1970, Japanese government officials said.
Japan made the request at a trilateral meeting between Japan, South Korea and the U.S. on policy toward North Korea prior to a visit to the U.S. by Cho Myong Nok, the first vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and the No. 3 leader in North Korea.
Cho will visit the U.S. from Monday through Thursday as a special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Cho will be the highest-ranking North Korean official to ever visit the U.S.
Yukio Takeuchi, head of the Foreign Policy Bureau at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, urged U.S. State Department Counselor Wendy Sherman to take up the issues at talks between Cho and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Takeuchi reportedly said settling the issues is very important to improving relations between Japan and North Korea, which have yet to establish diplomatic ties.
He also said relations between Washington and Pyongyang would be negatively affected if the issues were left unresolved. Sherman reportedly replied that the issues are also important to the U.S.
Japan alleges that at least 10 Japanese were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, allegations that North Korea denies. The issue has been a major stumbling block in normalization talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang.
Japan has also demanded that North Korea extradite former members of the Japanese Red Army who have been in North Korea since hijacking a Japan Airlines plane in April 1970. Of the nine hijackers who arrived in North Korea, four remain in the country.
The U.S. is reportedly demanding the hijackers be handed over to Japan as a condition for removing the North from Washington’s list of states supporting terrorism.
Sherman told Takeuchi and South Korean Deputy Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Jang Jai Ryong that missile and nuclear development, terrorism, and establishing liaison offices will be on the agenda at the talks between Cho and Albright, the officials said.
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