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North Korea says hopes for positive talks with Japan

Source: Reuters - Tue, 25 Mar 2014 20:15 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Envoy says agenda not set for March 30-31 talks with Japan

* Must address suffering of Korean sex slaves

* Says North Korea will strengthen "nuclear deterrence"

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, March 25 (Reuters) - North Korea said on Tuesday that talks with Japan this month should include a demand for compensation for wartime Korean sex slaves and not only the issue of Japanese abducted decades ago which it considers closed.

But So Se Pyong, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said he hoped that the "sensitive" high-level talks being held in Beijing on March 30-31, the first in more than a year, would yield "positive results" for the people of both countries.

Japan and North Korea are set to resume high-level talks over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes, as well as the fate of Japanese abducted in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies. The talks have been suspended since December 2012, when North Korea test-launched a long-range missile.

"From Japan they just said that the abduction case is not solved yet, but we said that case is fully solved, there is not any problem for that," So told a news conference in Geneva.

"Instead, we are asking Japan to compensate (for) their crimes ... such as the 8.4 million people abducted into Japan during the colonial time and not only that but also some of the comfort women case also should be solved," he said.

North Korea says some that 200,000 Korean women were taken by Japan during the war and forced to be "comfort women" for Japanese soldiers.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month acknowledged a previous government apology to "comfort women" forced to serve in wartime military brothels, which was seen in Seoul as a softening of his nationalistic tone.

Japan's ties with North Korea have been fraught due to Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programmes, and Japanese anger over abductions.

North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies and said eight of them had died.

They included Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in 1977 on her way home from school at the age of 13. Two weeks ago her parents spent several days with their 26-year-old granddaughter in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, a venue Japanese and North Korean officials often use for unofficial contacts.

"There are different ideas on some issues, some positive and negative," So said on Tuesday.

"So if this is positive, then that would be very nice, it would be good for both peoples, the peoples of both countries. That is why we are trying to have that kind of dialogue."

NUCLEAR DETERRENCE

On nuclear issues, So said that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) would "continue to "strengthen its nuclear deterrence as long as the U.S. antagonistic policy toward the DPRK remains unchanged."

North Korea fired 10 short-range missiles into the sea off the east of the Korean peninsula on Sunday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing unidentified government officials in South Korea.

So, asked about the timing of the missiles coinciding with joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises taking place, said:

"During that military exercise they are doing, if we are doing nothing then who knows what will happen? So we are doing that kind of exercise, also that is normal and that is the usual exercise." (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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