Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi indicated Friday that Japan may resume rice aid to North Korea before normalization of bilateral relations.
“I want to consult with the international community and (Japan’s) Red Cross Society” about the need for humanitarian assistance to North Korea, Koizumi told Fuji TV.
“As far as humanitarian problems are concerned, we can (refrain from acting) in some situations, but not in others,” Koizumi said.
His remarks follow public anger in Japan at North Korea’s admission Tuesday that it abducted Japanese nationals and at least six of them have died.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted the Stalinist state was involved in the kidnappings.
Koizumi and Kim agreed in their summit Tuesday in Pyongyang to resume in October long-suspended talks on normalizing diplomatic ties.
But shock over the report that many of the Japanese have died and that the government was involved in the kidnappings has made people question its plans to help North Korea.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a subsequent news conference, “We have no concrete plans” to provide rice aid.
“We must decide if we should make such humanitarian aid distinct from other pending issues,” including political ones that have hampered the normalization talks between the two countries, he said.
Japan has provided 1.18 million tons of rice to North Korea through international organizations, such as the World Food Program, including 500,000 tons in the last package that was sent in 2001.
Koizumi said he is confident that Kim will seek dialogue with the United States in the near future in the interest of security in Northeast Asia.
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