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Prime Minister Koizumi Rumored to Visit Pyongyang

Posted May. 06, 2004 21:10,   


On May 6, Kyodo News reported that Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro did not acknowledge nor deny a plan to visit North Korea to repatriate the remaining families of the abducted Japanese officials.

Following Director General Tanaka Hitoshi of the Asian and Oceanic Affairs Bureau’s report, who discussed the repatriation issue with North Korea earlier that day in Beijing, Koizumi commented, “All discussion is dependent on Pyongyang’s statement. There is nothing to be said about the present situation,” concerning the issue of “visiting Pyongyang to greet the families.”

Kyodo News reported that judging from the prime minister’s response, both sides appear to have discussed the issue of repatriation of family members and the process of resuming peace talks during this negotiation.

In relation to this matter, another source reported that Prime Minister Koizumi has expressed his hopes to hold a summit conference with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il by revisiting North Korea in July.

After the end of negotiation on May 5 in Beijing, Yabunaka Mitoji, head of the Foreign Ministry`s Asian and Oceanic Affairs Bureau, avoided the question of “Did you express the prime minister’s intention to revisit North Korea?” replying, “I am not in a position to answer that.”

However, on May 6, one Japanese foreign source showed skepticism, reporting, “Although it might be the prime minister’s wishful thinking, considering the fact that the nuclear issue with the U.S. is unsettled in addition to the pending issue of supporting the Japanese economy, the possibility of Kim accepting a summit conference seems to be unlikely at this point.”

On the other hand, at a press conference earlier that day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda hinted at North Korea’s change of attitude, stating, “During earlier negotiations, North Korea chose to be critical of Japan all along, however I heard this was not the case during this negotiation.”

Several Japanese media sources reported on May 6 that North Korea agreed to the policy of an early and absolute repatriation of the remaining families during this negotiation.

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com