• Kyodo

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North Korea wants Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s successor to implement a 2002 bilateral declaration committing both countries to work toward normalizing ties, a senior North Korean official said in a recent interview.

If the new Japanese leadership “hopes to prosper together with us as neighbors with friendly relations, it should abandon its policy of hostility against our country and work to sincerely implement the Pyongyang Declaration,” Jong Thae Hwa, a former top negotiator in normalization talks with Japan, told Kyodo News.

Sunday marked the fourth anniversary of Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il signing the bilateral declaration in Pyongyang.

Jong now acts as adviser to an association on exchanges between North Korea and Japan.

The basic point of the declaration “is for Japan to settle the crimes it committed toward the Korean people in the past,” Jong said, repeating North Korea’s position that priority should be placed on resolving issues stemming from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

Jong repeated that the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s “has been solved completely, through our sincere efforts.”

Japan has rejected North Korea’s position that the issue is resolved, and is demanding that Pyongyang provide convincing accounts of the fates of several missing persons. The two countries also differ over the number of those kidnapped.

Jong said current relations between the two countries “have not only not improved, but reached their worst state.”

But he also called the declaration a “milestone” for improving bilateral relations.

“Whether the declaration will be implemented or not relies solely on Japan,” he said.

Jong criticized recent investigations by police into pro-Pyongyang Korean organizations in Japan, saying Tokyo is “strengthening oppression” of the organizations.

He said recent movements aimed at revising the pacifist Constitution also “goes against the spirit of the Pyongyang Declaration.”

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