Japan will try to narrow differences and seek points on which both sides can agree in bilateral normalization talks with North Korea next week, Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said Friday.
“We will say what we have to say but also talk patiently (with Pyongyang),” Kono told a regular news conference after a Cabinet meeting. “We want to narrow the big differences step by step.”
Japan and North Korea are scheduled to hold the 11th round of talks on normalizing diplomatic relations in Beijing on Monday and Tuesday. In the two rounds held earlier this year, both sides repeated their basic positions on key issues.
North Korea is demanding compensation from Tokyo for Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula; Tokyo is urging Pyongyang to return about a dozen Japanese citizens that it believes were kidnapped by North Korean agents during the 1970s and 1980s.
In the previous round of talks in Japan in August, Japan suggested that Pyongyang’s demand for compensation should be settled through economic assistance, as Japan did when it normalized relations with South Korea in 1965.
“That is one of many options (to settle the dispute),” Kono said.
In the upcoming talks, to be held between Kojiro Takano, Japan’s chief negotiator, and his North Korean counterpart, Ambassador Jong Tae Hwa, the two sides are expected to discuss how much financial support Japan would provide. Kono admitted that progress in Japan-North Korea relations has been slow.
compared with the recent dramatic changes in relations between Pyongyang and Washington following a series of top-level encounters between the two countries.
“Compared with U.S.-North Korea relations, we have many difficult problems,” Kono said. “But I am sure that North Korea would also benefit greatly by normalizing ties with us.”
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