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North Korea, Japan Optimistic About First Talks in 8 Years

April 05, 2000|From Associated Press

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korean and Japanese negotiators expressed confidence today that they will be able to bridge differences in their first talks in eight years on establishing diplomatic relations.

Kojiro Takano, Japan's chief negotiator, and his North Korean counterpart, Jong Thae-kwa, exchanged remarks at a banquet held at the Foreign Ministry guest house in the countryside outside Pyongyang, the capital.

"We must strive hard to build trust and work toward establishing diplomatic ties," Jong said. "Nothing is impossible."

Takano expressed Japan's "eagerness" to build closer ties and lavished praise on his counterpart.

"I believe these will be long negotiations, but I am glad because I have no doubt we will have a good personal relationship," he said.

Similar normalization talks broke down in 1992, and swift progress is not expected now. A second round of negotiations is to be held in Tokyo and a third in China or another country.

In reviving the negotiations, Tokyo hopes that engaging the North will help draw the Stalinist state out of its isolation and boost stability in Asia.

Takano said the political turmoil in Japan caused by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's stroke last weekend will have no impact on the talks.

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