PYONGYANG (Kyodo) North Korea is “disappointed” by Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s recent apology only to South Korea for Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, a senior North Korean official said Friday.
Kan’s statement “retreats” from a similar statement issued in 1995 by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, which apologized to North Korean and other Asian victims of Japan’s past aggression, Song Il Ho, ambassador for normalization talks with Japan, said in an interview in Pyongyang.
“Looking at expressions and the depth of apology in Kan’s statement, we don’t totally understand what Japan is apologizing for and whom it is apologizing to,” Song said. “The statement gave a sense of disappointment and resentment to all (North) Koreans.”
The comments indicate for the first time North Korea’s stance on the Kan statement, which was issued Tuesday ahead of the centenary of Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula later this month.
North Korea suspects the statement may be aimed at giving a hand to South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to bolster his public support, Song said, expressing alarm against closer ties between Tokyo and Seoul.
Song said that if the Kan government seriously seeks to improve Japan-North ties, it must reflect on the past 100 years of relations and immediately start work to compensate for its harsh colonial rule.
“Japan made many mistakes and sins, so it cannot settle them all at once,” he said. “But I think the Democratic Party of Japan-led government can at least start improving relations by removing sanctions the previous Liberal Democratic Party-led government imposed on us.”
In the process of improving ties, the two countries — which do not have diplomatic relations — can solve issues regarding the North’s past abduction of Japanese nationals “easily,” the ambassador said.
Asked about news reports that pro-Pyongyang schools for Korean residents in Japan will be included in a tuition waiver program for high school students, Song said the program “must cover such schools,” and that he “expects that to happen.”
“The right of learning by the young generation must not be restricted or discriminated by their race or nation,” he said. “This is a basic human rights issue.”
Song said that despite the change of power last September, he has seen no difference in North Korean policy between Kan’s DPJ and the LDP.
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