National

Tokyo readies first aid bound for North

Compiled From Staff, Kyodo Reports

Japan said Thursday it will give 125,000 tons of food aid and some $7 million in medical supplies to North Korea via international organizations ahead of a bilateral meeting expected to be held next week.

The food aid is expected to be worth about $40 million. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged 250,000 tons of food aid and $10 million worth of medical supplies during a May 22 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.

Tokyo hopes Pyongyang will in return swiftly present its latest report on 10 missing Japanese. The report is hoped to be presented during a working-level meeting the two countries plan to hold in Beijing next week.

The North has admitted kidnapping eight of the 10 but claimed they have died, and denies knowledge of the other two, including the mother of one of the five repatriated abductees. During the May summit, Kim promised a reinvestigation into the 10.

“We will continue to urge North Korea to provide information on the investigation of those Japanese nationals as early as possible,” Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told reporters Thursday.

Kawaguchi also said she is considering sending personnel via relevant organizations to North Korea to ensure the aid reaches those who need it.

Tokyo sees food aid as a key diplomatic card that it can use against North Korea, which is why it is being sent in installments, government sources said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a separate news conference that the government is expected to provide the remaining amount of aid in the latter part of this fiscal year.

Japan will donate some $40 million to the World Food Program, which in turn will provide the North with 50,000 tons of wheat, 48,000 tons of rice, 18,500 tons of corn, 5,000 tons of soybeans, 2,000 tons of sugar and 1,500 tons of cooking oil.

As for medical supplies, Tokyo will give $5 million to the UNICEF and about $2 million to the World Health Organization to aid 30 hospitals in North Korea.

Some politicians have questioned why the aid disbursement was made at this time.

Former Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura told a gathering of his Liberal Democratic Party faction the same day that the timing of the government’s decision should be carefully scrutinized.

“Since there has been no progress whatsoever regarding information on the missing 10, we need to check whether it was a good thing to give the aid now,” he said.

He said he hopes the government will use the remaining part of the promised aid as leverage to get more concrete information concerning the fates of the 10.

The last time Tokyo gave food aid to North Korea was in 2000, when it provided 500,000 tons of rice. The move drew harsh public criticism.

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