N. Korea raps Japan over 2002 Pyongyang Declaration

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi shakes hand with then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il after signing the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration in Pyongyang on Sept. 17, 2002.

SEOUL (Jiji Press) — A North Korean diplomat has condemned Japan in a statement released ahead of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Pyongyang Declaration, the Korean Central News Agency reported Friday.

Song Il Ho, North Korea’s envoy for relations with Japan, said in the statement, dated Thursday, that Japan has nullified the declaration by imposing all sorts of hideous sanctions against North Korea.

Japan brought up again the already-resolved issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by Pyongyang decades ago and led its relationship with North Korea to the worst confrontation phase, the statement said, warning against Japan’s demands for the early return of abductees.

Song claimed that the fundamental philosophy of the declaration was that the two countries build political, economic and cultural relations after Japan offers a sincere apology over its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula in the past and pay due compensation.

But Tokyo distorted the declaration and misused it for impure political purposes, claiming that it was for the resolution of the abduction, nuclear and missile issues, Song said. It was an act of betrayal of the declaration, Song said.

The Pyongyang Declaration was signed in the North Korean capital on Sept. 17, 2002, by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il for the early normalization of the two countries’ diplomatic ties. During the day’s meeting with Koizumi, Kim acknowledged for the first time that Japanese citizens were abducted by Pyongyang, and offered an apology. The declaration included a pledge by North Korea to take preventive measures.

The meeting led to the return of five Japanese abductees to Japan in October that year. Other Japanese abductees have not returned home, however.

In the declaration, Japan expressed “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology” over the colonial rule. Japan and North Korea confirmed that they would promote dialogue to realize economic cooperation and resolve the issue of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear development programs after the normalization of their diplomatic ties.

Tsuda University professor Park Jung-jin said the statement is a clear message from North Korea that it would not negotiate with Japan if it continues only to bring up the abduction issue.

Meanwhile, Song’s claim that Japan has nullified the declaration suggests that North Korea has no intention to be the first to ditch the deal, analysts say.

Determining the fate of the relationship between Japan and North Korea is entirely up to the Japanese government’s attitude, Song said in the statement, leaving room for his country to accept comprehensive negotiations including diplomatic normalization.