North Korea, Japan to hold first direct talks in 4 years


A North Korean national flag flies at half-mast above the North Korean embassy in Beijing on December 22, 2011 following the sudden death of former leader Kim Jong-il.



Representatives from North Korea and Japan will meet in Beijing on Wednesday for the first direct talks between the two neighbors in four years, Agence France-Presse reported.

According to Kyodo, the meeting is a “preliminary consultation to fix the agenda” for future talks.

Analysts are not holding their breathes for a major breakthrough in relations between the two countries, which have never had formal diplomatic ties, though they are hoping to glean some clues about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s foreign policy stance.

Key talking points at the meeting are expected to include North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese people, while Pyongyang is likely to raise the issue of fuel and food – it wants more of both. 

In the unlikely event they work through these issues, the two sides won’t run out of things to talk about. They share a long list of grievances that goes back decades.

North Korea doesn’t approve of Japan’s military alliance with the United States and it still bears a grudge against Japan for the colonization of the Korean peninsula in the first half of the 20th century.

Tokyo is not happy about Pyongyang’s recent saber-rattling missile tests over Japanese territory.

Toshimitsu Shigemura, professor of Korean studies at Waseda University in Tokyo, said he doesn’t expect to see much progress on these issues.

"If the North rejects Tokyo's wishes, the talks could easily be deadlocked," Shigemura was quoted by AFP as saying.

"The North has different objectives from the meeting, which are money and food, while Tokyo's priority is to talk about the kidnapping."

More from GlobalPost: World Food Program sends North Korea emergency food aid


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