• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Japan, North Korea kick off talks in Stockholm

AFP · 27 May 2014, 07:13

Published: 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.
   
Story continues below…
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
Swedish police backtrack on 'gunfight' claims
The scene of the shooting on June 22nd. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Police have retracted a claim that a suspected gunman had fired shots at a patrol unit before officers shot him dead.

Crayfish poachers send Swedes' blood boiling
Has anyone seen this crayfish? Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Oh no, not just before crayfish season!

Police hunt suspected gunman, 22, in Malmö
Rosengård Centrum. Photo: Simon Paulin/SvD/TT

Malmö police are looking for a 22-year-old suspect in connection with a shooting at a shopping centre in Rosengård.

Really old stinky cheese found on royal Swedish shipwreck
A diamond ring, the stinky cheese and gold coins. Photo: Lars Einarsson/Kalmar County Museum

Swedish scientists have discovered what is believed to be 340-year-old cheese on board a 17th century shipwreck.

Man charged with groping girls at kids' football cup
The accused in court. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

A 36-year-old sports manager whose team was sent home from Sweden after he was accused of groping three teenage girls at an international children's football tournament now faces trial.

Concern over barrage of fake Russian news in Sweden
The Russian propaganda site Sputnik News

Sweden is being subjected to constant disinformation campaigns by Russia and Isis, according to authorities.

'Let refugees go to uni while they wait': demand
A student at Stockholm University. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Asylum seekers in Sweden should be allowed to start university studies while they are waiting for decisions on their cases, it has been proposed.

The Local List
Ten Swedish phrases you only hear in summer
Let's work on that tan. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Summer always leaves foreigners baffled by Swedes' unique seasonal habits. Here's The Local's guide to navigating small talk when the sun comes out.

So Sweden has high taxes? Not as high as you might think
A taxpayer hands in their tax declaration. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

So you think Swedes pay a lot in tax? Others pay much more, according to a new study.

Man injured in shooting at Malmö shopping mall
Rosengård Centrum in Malmö. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

Police cordoned off an area around a shopping centre in Malmö after a man was shot on Tuesday afternoon.

Sponsored Article
What can newcomers learn about Sweden at Almedalen?
Politics
Why Sweden's high taxes are not as high as you think
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
National
What's haggis in a condom doing on Swedish children's TV?
National
Meet the northern Swede who is the world's best mosquito killer
Blog updates

26 July

A summer of change; a summer of beauty (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"You would have had to try hard to miss the political upheavals in the UK after…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
National
Sweden's Hollywood star Alicia Vikander puts her pen in the bottle
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: Where Swedes go to work (and play)
Gallery
People-watching: July 22nd-24th
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
National
Watch this Swedish weather host leave his fly open... on live TV
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
The Local Voices
'I fled war in Syria. I never expected to be beaten in Sweden'
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
WATCH: Asylum seeker brutally beaten by Swedish bus driver
Technology
Why everyone is talking about Sweden's GTA pride parade
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
EU hits truck cartel with record price fixing fine
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
OPINION: Why Sweden is the most extreme country in the world
The Local Voices
'There is equality in accommodation in Sweden: Everyone is suffering'
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
Gallery
Property of the week: Gräsö, Östhammar
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th-17th
National
How to make sure you're not caught out by Sweden's old bank notes
Sponsored Article
Local guide: the best of Berlin
Business & Money
Why Sweden has been named the most innovative country in Europe
Sponsored Article
Why you need a EuroBonus American Express Card
National
Terror attack: what should you do?
National
French expat on the moment he was assaulted by a Stockholm bouncer
Technology
Gunman? Nah, smartphone Swede
The Local Voices
'If the war in Syria ended today, would you go back?'
The Local Voices
‘I feel like I’m living in a grave!’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Princess Victoria celebrates 39th birthday
Gallery
People-watching: July 13th
National
Swedes discover surprise mountain
Politics
What Sweden's home secretary thinks of Britain's new PM
Gallery
Property of the week: Smedjebacken, Dalarna
The Local Voices
'Even xenophobic Swedes can be polite’
Politics
WATCH: A very Swedish take on Brexit...
The Local Voices
'The best time to be smuggled to Europe is August 20th, 2015'
The Local Voices
Swedes: Stop obsessing over your material life and start talking to strangers
3,361
jobs available