BEIJING – Pyongyang’s official media Thursday doused Tokyo’s hope of addressing the issue of Japanese abducted to North Korea when government officials from the two countries meet later this month for the first time in four years.
The meeting, scheduled for Aug. 29 in Beijing, is the outgrowth of talks between Japanese and North Korean Red Cross officials earlier this month in Beijing on ways to deal with the remains of Japanese who died in what is now North Korea near the 1945 end of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
In a commentary Thursday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency accused Tokyo of “politicizing” what it said was a purely humanitarian issue.
North Korea has said it was from a humanitarian viewpoint that Pyongyang agreed to meet with Japanese government officials over the issue of what to do with the remains of thousands of Japanese who died there during the upheavals before and after Japan’s defeat in World War II.
“There is nothing for Japan to gain by politicizing a humanitarian issue,” the commentary said.
On Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Japan believed the talks would “definitely” include the issue of North Korea’s abductions.
North Korea has admitted abducting more than a dozen Japanese citizens in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But it considers the issue closed after allowing five of the abductees to return to Japan and claiming the others had died, a claim Tokyo doesn’t buy.
Japan has characterized the meeting in Beijing on Aug. 29 as a preliminary consultation to fix the agenda and address procedural issues ahead of full-fledged talks.
According to government data, around 34,600 Japanese are believed to have died around the end of the war in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. The remains of around 21,600 of them are believed buried there.
The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
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