[EDITORIALS]Japan, North making progressNorth Korea and Japan held a summit in Pyeongyang Saturday, one year and eight months after their first such meeting. The two sides agreed on the release of five family members of former Japanese abductees in North Korea, and verified their intent to hold working-level meetings to reinvestigate alleged kidnappings stilll unaccounted for and to resume working-level negotiations toward the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced he would stop enactment of unfriendly legislation against North Korea and send food and medical aid within two months.
Though there were no epoch-making results, it is fortunate that the two sides preferred to resume talks instead of continuing hostilities. Through this opportunity, we hope that the relations of the two will improve quickly, and that the summit will benefit the forthcoming six-party talks. We take particular note of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s announcement that he considers non-nuclearization on the peninsula an important goal and that he hopes to solve this issue peaceably through the six-way talks. Visiting China last month, Mr. Kim said that he would participate actively in the six-way talks with “patience and flexibility.”
It is true that the North Korean nuclear crisis began one month after the North-Japan summit meeting in 2002. Also, considering how the issue of Japanese abductees rocked North-Japan relations and Northeast Asian politics, we should not be surprised to find a difficult path before tangible results emerge from the summit. Therefore, it is hoped that the two sides don’t give up halfway but consolidate the basis for actual normalization of their ties this time.
The fact that they have actually solved the abductee issue in a larger frame has great significance for South Korea, over 400 of whose citizens were allegedly kidnapped by North Korean agents. Considering the uniqueness of the North-South problem, it is not hard to understand the government’s efforts to maintain an ongoing conversation with Pyeongyang. But it is time we find a solution to the issue of South Korean abductees from a humanitarian perspective. The government should heed the cries of those whose family members were kidnapped and work actively to find a solution.