DPRK, Japan End Summit with Progress in Solving Thorny Issues

Kim Jong Il, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Tuesday concluded their first-ever summit in Pyongyang with progress made in solving major thorny issues affecting relations between their two countries.

The two sides agreed to resume negotiations on the normalization of relations in October, according to a Pyongyang Declaration issued at the end of the summit between Kim and Koizumi here Tuesday.

The improvement of relations between Japan and the DPRK is not only conducive to the relationship of the two countries, but also conducive to peace and stability of the whole Northeast Asia, Koizumi told a press conference after his talks with Kim.

"The Japanese side honestly admitted the historical facts that it had inflicted huge damage and sufferings upon the Korean people during its past colonial rule over Korea and keenly reflected on and sincerely apologized for them," according to the declaration.

Japan will render economic cooperation to the DPRK side including grants in aid, low-interest long-term loans and humanitarian aid through international organizations and provide loans and credit through the international cooperation bank of Japan as compensation to the DPRK, the declaration said.

An apology, along with compensation for Japan's harsh colonial rule, has long been demanded by the DPRK as a condition to progress long-stalled talks on establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The DPRK, on the other hand, confirmed the whereabouts of 11 missing Japanese who were allegedly abducted in 8 incidents in the1970s and 1980s by DPRK agents.

Making the confirmation during his working talks with Koizumi, Kim told Koizumi that four of the 11 are still alive and the rest dead, and that the deaths were caused by illness and calamities, a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.

Kim acknowledged that the Japanese were abducted by DPRK special institutions and said those responsible for the abduction incidents had been punished, the spokesman, who is accompanying Koizumi for one-day historic visit here, said.

The DPRK earlier denied having abducted anyone. Kim regretted for the incidents.

Kim ensured that the four who are still alive can meet their family members and return to Japan temporarily or forever, the spokesman said, adding Japanese foreign ministry officials met here the four.

Japan preconditioned resuming stalled talks on establishing diplomatic ties with the DPRK on the later's providing information on the 11 missing Japanese nationals.

The DPRK's demand for Japan's apology and compensation for its colonial rule and the issue of the missing Japanese were two major hurdles that have prevented the two sides from improving and normalizing bilateral relations.

The two leaders also discussed regional security with the DPRK pledging to continue freezing missile tests after 2003 and the two sides agreeing to promote dialogues among the countries concerned on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, according to the Pyongyang Declaration.

Kim and Koizumi held two rounds of talks Tuesday soon after Koizumi arrived here on a B-747 government special plane for one-day ice-breaking visit to the DPRK.

As there is no diplomatic ties between the two countries, there was no welcoming ceremony at the Pyongyang Sun An Airport for Koizumi's visit, but he was received at the airport by Kim Yong Nam, President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK.

No national flags of the two countries were seen on the streets in Pyongyang City and at the Sun An Airport. Even Koizumi's car has no flag on it.

Kim Jong Il greeted him at the Pak Hwa Won Hotel before their talks by saying "You have gone to the trouble of traveling long distances early morning in order to turn a new page in the history of bilateral relations, I am very glad. I warmly welcome you."

Koizumi's visit to the DPRK and his talks with Kim were seen asa positive development and an opportunity to improve relations between the DPRK and Japan.

After the one-day visit, Koizumi left Pyongyang for home.

Koizumi came after a series of talks in July and August, involving foreign ministers, Red Cross officials and senior working-level officials of the foreign ministries, yielded encouraging results.

DPRK Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi met during the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)in Brunei in July. The two countries then held Red Cross talks in Pyongyang on August 18-19 and senior working-level talks involving foreign ministry officials in Pyongyang on August 25-26.

At the end of the most recent officials' talks, the two sides issued a joint statement, saying the two countries agreed to decide in a month whether to resume suspended negotiations on establishing diplomatic ties, by noting the need to resolve "in a comprehensive manner" various pending issues.

Normalization negotiations between the DPRK and Japan started in 1991, but the talks were suspended since October 2002 after 11 rounds, amid huge differences over the key issues.

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