Tokyo, Pyongyang to continue high-level talks
Updated: 2012-09-01 08:00
By Agencies in Beijing (China Daily)
Tokyo and Pyongyang pledged to push their government-to-government talks to a higher level soon, as their representatives concluded their preparatory discussions in Beijing on Friday.
As the first such meeting since 2008, the discussions sends a positive signal about relations between Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, yet the improvement of bilateral ties is still limited, experts said.
Japan and the DPRK will iron out final details to conduct higher-level talks in the Chinese capital at "as early a time as possible", a Japanese official connected to its Foreign Ministry was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.
This week's results will be taken back to Tokyo and Pyongyang for further discussion, he said, and the two will work to "hold broad talks with issues of concern to both sides on the agenda", possibly in September.
Japan will strongly pursue the abduction issue at the discussions, he said.
This week's meetings were conducted by low-level diplomats and were characterized by the official as "matter-of-fact" and "frank".
The talks originally were to take place for two days, but were extended to three.
The interaction shows the two countries aim to improve bilateral ties, said Wang Fan, a global affairs professor from China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing.
The DPRK's new leader, Kim Jong-un, needs to develop the economy of his country, and that requires sound foreign relations, Wang said.
Wang Ping, an expert on Japanese studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Japan and the DPRK need a breakthrough in their respective foreign policies.
"The DPRK wants to break its isolation from the international community, while Japan is eager to have some 'diplomatic achievements' to break the deadlock of its tense ties with most neighboring countries", she said.
"Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is also likely to visit the DPRK in the future, to show the 'achievement'."
But it is hard for Tokyo and Pyongyang to substantially improve ties, experts said.
DPRK's nuclear program is one of Japan's key concerns. If Pyongyang insists on keeping its nuclear program, it will be difficult for Japan to accept a nuclear-armed DPRK, Wang said.
The two countries have no formal diplomatic relations and have long been at odds over numerous issues, including the abduction of Japanese citizens by the DPRK, and the legacy of Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The DPRK admitted in 2002 that its agents kidnapped Japanese people in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies by teaching them Japanese language and culture. The DPRK later allowed five of them and their families to return home.
It said some others died, though many in Japan hold out hope they are still alive. Japan has said the DPRK agreed when the two sides last met in 2008 to reopen the investigation into the fate of abducted Japanese citizens.
Jin Matsubara, Japan's state minister for the abduction issue, said recently that progress could yield big dividends in humanitarian aid.