• Kyodo

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A group related to the late Shin Kanemaru arrived in Pyongyang on Saturday ahead of the 100th anniversary of the influential politician’s birthday on Sept. 17.

“Our trip is mainly sightseeing, and we have no political intention,” his son Yasunobu Kanemaru said at a hotel in the North Korean capital.

The delegation of nearly 60 people arrived as Japan and North Korea are working to improve ties by addressing the long-festering abduction issue. The party is being led by the eldest son of Kanemaru, a former vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party who worked on establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries in the 1990s.

But his son, who is visiting North Korea for the first time, said he hopes his father’s efforts to improve relations will bear fruit in the near future and that the group’s trip will contribute to that end.

In September 1990, Kanemaru co-headed a joint delegation of LDP and Socialist Party of Japan members that went to North Korea. The SPJ was the main opposition party at the time.

The parties signed a joint declaration with ruling Korean Workers’ Party calling for the need to normalize diplomatic ties.

Kanemaru, who died in 1996 at age 81, also held talks with the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung during his five-day visit.

The people in the delegation are the latest from Japan to visit the North since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government in early July eased travel restrictions between the countries, which do not have diplomatic relations.

The change was part of Japan’s decision to lift some of its unilateral sanctions in return for North Korea’s launch of a new investigation into the whereabouts of at least a dozen Japanese who were abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

When Kanemaru visited North Korea in 1990, the abduction issue was widely unknown by the Japanese public.

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