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SLUG: 5-47265 Japan/Norkor talks scenesetter DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: Japan and North Korea are set to open another round of talks on establishing diplomatic relations. The talks begin Monday in Beijing. As VOAs Amy Bickers reports from Tokyo, experts expect no breakthroughs despite Pyongyang's recent move to reverse its long history of diplomatic isolation.

TEXT: The talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang will be the 11th round overall, and the third since the two sides resumed negotiations in April, after a break of more than seven years.

North Korea is in the process of actively reaching out to many countries and appears to be in the process of slowly dismantling its Cold War isolation policies. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright just completed an historic two-day trip to Pyongyang, where she held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

Relations between Pyongyang and Seoul have been warming since the North-South Korea summit last June. More recently, Germany, Britain and Spain decided to recognize the North Korean government. But analysts such as Roger Buckley of the International Christian University in Tokyo say the barriers to establishing relations with Japan remain formidable.


The two main obstacles are first the issue of abduction of

Japanese nationals which is very important, very sensitive issue

to people in Japan. It is a very bizarre issue that simply will

not go a way, much though the government would like it to. The

second issue is a more deep-seated issue, that is of compensation

for Japans colonial era. That, too, is a highly sensitive issue. It

is a highly emotional subject that eventually will have to be faced.

Those are two issues which would require a great deal of

negotiation, so I do not forsee any immediate breakthrough.

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These same issues have stalled previous negotiations between the two Northeast Asian neighbors. Just days ago, Pyongyang warned that the Beijing talks will collapse if Japan insists on discussing the alleged kidnappings or North Koreas suspected missile program, which the state-run Korean Central News Agency calls threadbare fiction.

On Friday, Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said Japan is hoping to find common ground with North Korea in the talks. He said both sides presented their positions in the previous two rounds and now must work towards pursuing shared interests.

But in Japan, public concern remains high over the group of ten Japanese hostages allegedly abducted in the 1970s and 1980s. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori got entangled in the issue this month when he told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that a Japanese delegation visiting Pyongyang three years ago had proposed that North Korea arrange for the missing Japanese to be found living in a third country.

Mr. Mori immediately came under heavy pressure from his political opponents, the news media and even some legislators in his own party for considering and openly discussing such a deceptive diplomatic move.

Analyst Roger Buckley says it will be impossible for Pyongyang and Tokyo to establish diplomatic relations until the matter of the kidnappings is resolved.


The issue is very sensitive indeed to some Japanese and it is

clearly an enormous barrier to any future normalization of

relations between Japan and North Korea. That is the difficulty

for that Japanese government and for diplomats. They have to try

to move towards solving this issue. If they do not, they cannot

really follow other nations. The risk is that Japan will be left

behind in this possible move towards improving relations between North

Korea and former enemies.

/// END ACT ///

After the last round of high-level talks in August, Tokyo decided to send 500-thousand tons of rice to North Korea, which is

struggling with food shortages. Officials in Tokyo hope the move will encourage goodwill between the two long-time enemies.

But analysts warn that Pyongyang is unlikely to give any ground, since it knows Japan is worried about being left behind as other nations form ties with North Korea. (SIGNED)


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