Japan tells South it won’t obstruct talks

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Japan tells South it won’t obstruct talks

The Japanese foreign minister’s recent push for direct talks between Japan and North Korea is not intended to obstruct Seoul’s efforts to stabilize the inter-Korean relationship through a sincere talk with Pyongyang, a Japanese diplomatic source told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

“It is not that [Japan] is seeking a North Korea-Japan talk while putting aside South Korea,” said a high-ranking official at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, referring to Seiji Maehara’s comments.

Maehara said at a media briefing on Tuesday that he wants direct talks with North Korea in the spirit of the Pyongyang Declaration, made during a 2002 meeting between then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Some political observers in Korea point out that his remarks could send the wrong signal to North Korea while Seoul is pointing to the lack of “sincerity” in the North’s recent overture for inter-Korean talks, which came without apology for its recent provocations.

In a commentary posted on the Korean Central News Agency Web site, North Korea welcomed Maehara’s remarks as “a positive step” toward improving Pyongyang-Tokyo relations.

The embassy official said Maehara’s remarks, including similar ones made previously, represent a growing voice in Japan toward flexibility.

Meanwhile, Maehara delayed his visit to Seoul by one day for unspecified domestic reasons and will come on Saturday instead, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said yesterday. It will be his first visit to Seoul since taking office last September.


By Chun Su-jin, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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