Japan to demand payment from North Korea for kidnappings

Monday, October 28, 2002

TOKYO -- Japan will demand compensation from North Korea for abducting more than a dozen Japanese nationals decades ago and for damaging its coast guard vessels last year during a high seas gunfight, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The demand will be made this week during talks on normalizing diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Yomiuri, Japan's largest daily, said. The report did not specify how much compensation Japan would seek.

The talks begin Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Japan also will call on North Korea to dismantle its biological and nuclear weapons programs and halt missile development, the newspaper said.

On Saturday, President Bush joined Japan and South Korea in demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program "in a prompt and verifiable manner," but his aides repeated Washington's unwillingness to negotiate with the North.

Bush met Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Mexico.

In the normalization talks, Japan is also expected to demand an explanation from the North about the suspected spy ship, which it has salvaged from the East China Sea, the Yomiuri said. The ship sank during a December firefight with Japan's coast guard after the vessel entered Japanese waters.

The two countries never have had diplomatic ties. Attempts to establish formal relations broke down two years ago, when the North denied any role in the abductions of Japanese citizens by Northern agents.

But in a surprising turnaround during a summit with Koizumi last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted that the North kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s. That admission paved the way for this week's talks.

The five survivors of the kidnappings currently are visiting Japan. Pyongyang still has not accepted Tokyo's decision allowing the five people to stay in Japan longer than the initially expected one or two weeks.

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