Veteran Politician Reports no Progress in North Korea
Monday, January 15, 2007 Posted: 02:43 PM JST
Veteran politician Taku Yamasaki, former vice president of the LDP, returned home empty-handed from a surprise trip to North Korea on Saturday. The highly criticized visit was against the wishes of Prime Minister Abe, but the 70-year-old Yamasaki claimed it was necessary to have "dialogue" with North Korea. Japan-North Korea relations are currently deadlocked over Pyongyang's nuclear test and the return of abducted Japanese nationals.
Yamasaki spoke with Song Il-ho, the North Korean ambassador for normalization of diplomatic relations with Japan. When Yamasaki demanded that remaining abductees be returned to Japan, he was told that the issue was closed.
The trip came as North Korea is reportedly preparing another nuclear test. In response to Yamasaki's questions about North Korea's nuclear weapons program Song explained that Pyongyang wants a nuclear arms free Korean Peninsula and called Japan's sanctions in response to the previous test "ineffective" and "discriminatory".
The last meaningful meetings between North Korea an Japan took place when former Prime Minister Koizumi visited Pyongyang in September 2002 and May 2004. North Korean leader Kim admitted the abductions of 13 Japanese at that time, but claimed that 8 had already died. The remaining abductees and their families were eventually allowed to visit Japan, which refused their return to the Stalinist state. Japanese officials believe that the missing abductees are still alive, and that there are other abductee victims as well.
Ever since North Korea has decided it will no longer talk about the abduction issue, relations between the two countries have been at a standstill.
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