Kim seeks ‘normal’ ties with Japan


North Korean leader Kim Jong-il – who is to meet Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Pyongyang on Tuesday – says he wants to establish diplomatic ties with Tokyo.

In a written interview with Japan’s Kyodo news agency, Mr Kim said he would be willing to visit Japan once relations had improved.

But he reiterated his government’s demand for an apology and compensation for Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

This is among a number of issues that have soured relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

Japan, for its part, accuses North Korean agents of abducting 11 Japanese in the 1970s and 80s, and is still angry over Pyongyang’s launch of a missile over Japan in 1998.

‘Liquidate the past’

In the interview with Kyodo, Mr Kim said it was “the historic mission for the two countries’ politicians of today to normalise relations”.

But, he went on, “in order to liquidate the past, (Japan must) apologise sincerely by giving thorough consideration to all the sufferings and damages it inflicted on the Korean people”.

The issue of compensation, Mr Kim added, must also be “correctly resolved”.

President George W Bush has welcomed Mr Koizumi’s visit to North Korea, saying the United States has not given up on resuming talks with Pyongyang.

Mr Koizumi will be the first Japanese leader to visit North Korea – a country described by Mr Bush as part of an “axis of evil”, along with Iraq and Iran.


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