• Sweden edition
 
Japan, North Korea kick off talks in Stockholm
Stockholm. Photo: V Smoothe/Flickr

Japan, North Korea kick off talks in Stockholm

Published: 27 May 2014 07:13 GMT+02:00
Updated: 27 May 2014 07:13 GMT+02:00

   
The three days of meetings in the Swedish capital take place after the two countries held their first official talks in 16 months in China in March, addressing a range of subjects including the abduction issue, recent missile launches and North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.
   
Prior to the discussions at a small Stockholm hotel, the two delegations -- eight on either side -- appeared briefly in front of the media, the majority Japanese reporters flown in for the occasion.
   
Wearing stern expressions and making no eye contact with each other, the two delegations welcomed the opportunity to talk.
   
"Over the next three days, we want to hold forward-looking talks, based on issues we raised at the government talks in Beijing," said Japanese chief delegate Junichi Ihara, the director general of the foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.
   
"We also want to make an effort to push for a resolution of various issues as much as possible by frankly and seriously discussing broad matters of mutual interest."
   
His North Korean counterpart Song Il Ho, wearing a bright red and gold badge with the image of the country's leader Kim Jong-Un and his grandfather Kim Il-Sung, said that "we hope to hold sincere, deep and wide-ranged talks on relations between North Korea and Japan."
 
- Progress on abductees -
 
The Japanese side was expected to tell the North Koreans that it is willing to lift some economic sanctions imposed on the hermit state if it is convinced that Pyongyang is making a serious effort to investigate what happened to those kidnapped and still unaccounted for, Kyodo News said earlier, citing unnamed sources.
   
North Korea's approach to its dealings with Japan appears to have softened in recent months, especially on the emotive issue of abductions.
   
North Korea outraged Japan when it admitted more than a decade ago that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies in
Japanese language and customs.
   
Five of the abductees were allowed to return to Japan but Pyongyang has insisted, without producing solid evidence, that the eight others are dead.
   
"Needless to say, the abduction issue is one of the nation's biggest concerns," Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said last week when
announcing the Stockholm meeting. "We would like to draw their positive response."
 
- Sweden a neutral venue -
 
Sweden is considered a rather unusual choice for a venue, but it is seen as a neutral country by both sides, observers said. It has had diplomatic relations with North Korea since 1973, and represents the interests of US citizens in North Korea in the absence of diplomatic ties between Washington and Pyongyang.
   
"There have been a couple of meetings in the recent past, but they've always been in Asia. This is the first time that the venue has shifted to
Europe," said Ulv Hanssen, a researcher specialising in the Japanese abductees issue at the Free University of Berlin and recently based in Stockholm.
   
"There's a trust factor which a lot of countries are lacking when it comes to North Korea."
   
He added that the Swedish government simply offered a venue for the talks but have not been involved in framing them. During the March meeting, the Japanese side protested against the communist state's launch of ballistic missiles and its threat to conduct more nuclear tests.
   
Japan may reiterate this in Stockholm, but it is unlikely to make any progress, since North Korea prefers to deal with the United States on this
issue, according to analysts.
   
Pyongyang for its part renewed its demand that Tokyo compensate Koreans for their suffering during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.
   
If progress is to be made on Japan's key demand -- the abductees -- it may be difficult with several different issues on the table.
   
"I think they need to be separated... there are so many factors that can backfire if you have all these security issues involved," said Hanssen, adding that regardless of the agenda, there was little chance of a breakthrough at the Stockholm talks.
   
"I've been following the abduction issue for a long time and every time something seems to be happening one of the two sides goes back on some promise or they claim there was a misunderstanding," he said.
   
"There's always something that gets in the way... Most of the time it just seems to be talks for the sake of talks."

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
National
Chainsaw man destroys house in family feud
The man used a chainsaw to destroy most of the Lidköping home. Photo: Shutterstock

Chainsaw man destroys house in family feud

A man in central Sweden has gone on a rampage with a chainsaw after a family housing dispute took an unexpected turn. READ  

National
Man frames beggar with stolen tablet computer
The beggar was detained for almost 24 hours after the accusation. Photo: TT

Man frames beggar with stolen tablet computer

A man in southern Sweden has landed in hot water after he stole a tablet computer, gave it to a beggar, then reported her to the police. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden ready to use force to surface sub
The Swedish Armed Forces have sent out 200 troops. Photo: TT

Sweden ready to use force to surface sub

UPDATED: Sweden's military has announced that if it finds a suspect foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago, it is prepared to force it to the surface "with weapons if necessary". READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sub hunt: 'There is something out there'
Former navy officer Bosse Linden in Vaxholm. Photo: Maddy Savage

Sub hunt: 'There is something out there'

Stockholm's archipelago is the focus of the biggest military operation in Sweden since the Cold War. The Local is in the region's capital, Vaxholm, to see what residents make of the drama. READ  

Presented by CurrencyFair
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
CurrencyFair co-founder Brett Meyers

CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers

Tired of losing money when you send cash back home? Join other expats in Sweden who avoid bank fees and hidden charges by sending money internationally with CurrencyFair, an online marketplace where secure transactions are faster and cheaper. READ  

European Union
Extremist saves Sweden Democrats' EU group
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Extremist saves Sweden Democrats' EU group

The EU group that bound several Eurosceptic parties including the Sweden Democrats has been saved by an MEP from a far-right Polish group, just a week after it appeared to have crumbled, according to a UK press report. READ  

Stockholm 'submarine' hunt
Timeline: Mystery 'submarine' in Stockholm
Sweden's Armed Forces are out in force after reports of a foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: TT

Timeline: Mystery 'submarine' in Stockholm

The world has had its periscope on Sweden since the Swedish military launched an extensive hunt for what is rumoured to be a damaged Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago. Here is the timeline of events so far. READ  

Business & Money
Profit leap for Swedbank
A branch of Swedbank in Malmö. Photo. TT

Profit leap for Swedbank

Swedbank has seen its profits rise higher than expected. READ  

New coalition
Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition
Stefan Löfven has changed his strategy on sick pay. Photo: TT

Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition

Small businesses won't face rising sick pay costs, following a policy reversal from Sweden's new coalition government. READ  

Stockholm 'submarine' hunt
Vessel hunt continues at 'full strength'
Minehunter HMS Koster takes part in the search in the Stockholm archipelago on Sunday. Photo: Marko Säävälä/TT

Vessel hunt continues at 'full strength'

The search for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago continues with "full strength" on Tuesday morning, according to Sweden's armed forces. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
National
Sweden deploys troops over underwater threat
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Blog updates

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 

17 October

Editor’s Blog, Oct 17th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Here’s the whole week of news in just 60 seconds. The most-read story was about a..." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
National
A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Lifestyle
Sweden's The Bridge to become 'more Danish'
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
National
What's on in Sweden
National
Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' protection
Society
Interview with Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

1,005
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN