Photos of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted from Japan by North Korea in 1977, are displayed at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, May 9, 2018.

Photos of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted from Japan by North Korea in 1977, are displayed at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, May 9, 2018. (Stars and Stripes)

TOKYO — North Korea is willing to hold talks with Japan on improving their relationship but considers further discussions over abducted Japanese citizens “a waste of time,” according to North Korean state media.

Nothing prevents the two nations from meeting, provided Japan makes “a new decision from a broad perspective of recognizing each other” and “seeks a way of improving the relations,” North Korean vice-minister of foreign affairs Pak Sang Gil was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency on Monday.

The abduction issue, still a sticking point in Japan, is already resolved, Pak said.

In 2002, North Korea admitted for the first time to abducting Japanese nationals in the 1970s and ‘80s and apologized at a summit meeting with Japan, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry. Five abductees returned to Japan in October of that year, but another 12 remain unaccounted for.

Japan continues to investigate more than 800 people who might have been abducted, according to Japan’s Cabinet Office.

“Without the resolution of this issue, there can be no normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea,” the Foreign Ministry website states.

North Korea said it has returned all living abductees; the remainder are either dead or never entered the North.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday said Japan is committed to arranging a meeting "at the earliest opportunity" with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kishida spoke at a Tokyo rally seeking the return of Japanese abductees.

"I have always said that I am determined to meet with Chairman Kim Jong Un face-to-face anytime without any conditions, and I will do everything within my power in this regard," Kishida said, according to a transcript of his speech posted online.

It is “truly regrettable” that Japan has been unable to repatriate its abductees since 2002, Kishida said. Japanese negotiators will report directly to him while they work on arranging summit-level talks as early as possible by “engaging in high-level consultations” with North Korea, the prime minister added.

However, Pak said Japanese leaders must abandon the stance on adoptees taken by their predecessors.

"If it tries to fulfill the unrealizable desire by employing the methods used by the preceding regimes without any better proposals and bold decision to rewrite history, it will be a miscalculation and a waste of time," he said, according to KCNA.

During the rally, families of the abductees said they are getting old and urged the Japanese government to hold summit talks with the North as early as possible to resolve the issue, Japanese broadcaster TBS reported Saturday.

author picture
Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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