PYONGYANG – Pyongyang agrees to hold bilateral talks with Tokyo in October but its position on the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by its agents is that it has been “fully resolved,” a senior North Korean official said here Friday.
The comments were made by Jong Thae Hwa, a former top negotiator in normalization talks with Japan, to media organizations.
Jong said the only pending abduction issue pertains to remains handed over to Japan that the North claims were of abductee Megumi Yokota, and Pyongyang will refuse further demands from Tokyo for evidence or an expanded probe.
Tokyo had been seeking to resume bilateral negotiations with the reclusive state, especially to seek a resolution to the abduction issue. Jong’s remarks were taken as an effort by the North Korean side to keep Japan in check by staking out its basic position before the talks are held.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il acknowledged when he met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Pyongyang in September 2002 that his agents had kidnapped 13 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. He claimed only five had survived and they were subsequently repatriated. Tokyo at the time had presented a list of 15.
Tokyo remains unconvinced by North Korea’s claims that others on Japan’s list of abductees had died or were never taken to the North and has been demanding a further investigation.
The last time Japan and North Korea held bilateral talks was in November, when Pyongyang handed over what it claimed were the cremated remains of Yokota, who was kidnapped from Niigata Prefecture in 1977 at age 13.
However, discussions broke off after subsequent DNA tests in Japan showed the remains were not hers.
On Friday, Jong maintained that the obstacle to pushing relations forward is not the abduction issue but that of Japan’s “settling of issues concerning the past,” a reference to Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Pyongyang will go to the negotiating table because “we are the ones with more problems that need to be addressed,” he added.
On the abductions, Jong stressed that the North had complied with all the demands made by Japan and arranged interviews and provided documents during three rounds of talks last year, even though the two nations do not have diplomatic ties.
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