North Korea rules out any meetings with Japan

By Thomson Reuters Mar 29, 2024 | 5:20 AM

By Hyunsu Yim

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has no interest in dialogue with Japan, state media KCNA reported on Friday, citing foreign minister Choe Son Hui.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he wants to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “without any preconditions” and is personally overseeing efforts to realise the first such leaders’ summit in 20 years in an attempt to defuse decades of tensions.

But North Korea has said it had no interest in a summit with Japan and would reject any talks, signalling no thaw in relations between the two countries.

Choe also said Pyongyang has no intention to help with the issue of Japanese abductees, according to KCNA, adding North Korea will “respond sharply” to Japan’s interference with its sovereignty.

“I cannot understand why he persistently adheres to the issue that cannot be settled,” Choe was quoted as saying by KCNA, referring to Kishida.

North Korea admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens decades earlier. Five abductees and their families later returned to Japan, saying the others had died.

However, Tokyo believes 17 Japanese were abducted, and continues to investigate the fate of those who did not return, according to Japanese media.

North Korea’s ambassador to China, Ri Ryong Nam, also said there would be no meeting at any level with Japan, a separate KCNA report said.

Ri made the remark in a statement, adding that an official at the Japanese embassy in Beijing proposed a contact via email to a councillor of the North Korean embassy.

“I make the stance clear once again that no meeting at any level will take place between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Japan’s side,” Ri was quoted as saying in the KCNA report.

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim, has said she would welcome talks only if Japan was ready to make a new start without “being obsessed by the past.”

Relations have been strained over disputes including the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea in the early 2000s, Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula in 1910-1945 and its use of forced labour and sexual slavery.

Japan and North Korea also have clashed over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes, with the North conducting a number of test launches in recent months, prompting fresh sanctions from Seoul and Washington.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Kim Coghill)