Japan, N Korea hold first direct talks in 4 years
Washington: North Korea and Japan’s initiation of holding the first direct talks in four years may reflect Pyongyang’s desire to stabilise its new regime in the country through diplomacy and economic reform, analysts have said.
The ties between the two countries have been severely strained over the years after North Korea's abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the North's firing of ballistic missiles over Japan and its nuclear program.
While the primary topic of the meeting between the two countries in Beijing will be repatriating the remains of the Japanese who died in Korea at the end of World War II, the focus would remain on whether the two nations can make progress on the abduction issue, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“I'm under the impression North Korea may be willing to respond, in some form, to the abductions issue as part of the humanitarian issues to be discussed,” the paper quoted Masao Okonogi, an expert on Korean affairs and professor emeritus in law at Keio University in Tokyo, as saying.
Okonogi claimed that resolving the abduction issue is crucial to Pyongyang's goal of normalising diplomatic relations with Japan and seeking Tokyo's economic assistance.
The meeting also comes as Japan is ensnared in a bitter territorial dispute with South Korea over claims to a set of disputed islands, known as Liancourt Rocks that are controlled by Seoul.
As Japan and South Korea squabble over the issue, Pyongyang may see a good chance to play its neighbours off against each other, believes Okonogi.
"With Japan’s ties with South Korea strained, the North may think this is a good chance to get closer to Tokyo," he said.