60-person delegation from Japan visits North Korea

Posted on : 2019-09-16 17:32 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Visit follows Abe’s remarks hoping for a summit with N. Korea “without any conditions”  
Shingo Kanemaru
Shingo Kanemaru

A 60-person delegation led by Shingo Kanemaru – whose father, former Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Shin Kanemaru, was a key figure in a three-party statement acknowledging the need for diplomatic relations between North Korea and Japan – arrived in North Korea for a visit on Sept. 14. Coming after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s declaration in May that he hoped to have a summit with North Korea “without any conditions,” the visit is attracting attention even within Japan.

Speaking to Japanese reporters from Beijing International Airport on Sept. 14 en route to Pyongyang, Shingo Kanemaru said, “Since Prime Minister Abe said he wants a North Korea-Japan summit without conditions, we want to hear their [North Korea’s] thoughts on whether they might agree to this.” Kanemaru plans to attend an event to commemorate the 105th anniversary of his father’s birth. He is also meeting with Song Il-ho, North Korea’s ambassador on the issue of normalizing North Korea-Japan relations, Asahi TV reported. The delegation’s members include businesspeople from Shin Kanemaru’s home prefecture of Yamanashi.

Shingo Kanemaru’s connections with North Korea trace back to a surprise North Korea visit by his father in 1990. The elder Kanemura was not deputy prime minister at the time of his visit, but he was considered a powerful figure in Japanese politics. Amid the dismantling of the Cold War system at the time, North Korea actively pursued diplomatic relations with Japan. Visiting Pyongyang with Socialist Party Vice Chairman Makoto Tanabe, Kanemura met with then-North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, resulting in the release of a three-party declaration by the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Socialist Party. But with the subsequent emergence of the issue of Japanese abductees to North Korea, the two sides never formed diplomatic ties. Shingo Kanemura accompanied his father as secretary on the North Korea visit and has been to North Korea more than 20 times to date. The delegation did not receive any message from the Japanese government or LDP, it was reported.

The Japan Medical Association (JMA) also plans to send a delegation to North Korea from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3, Kyodo News reported. The visit was proposed by JMA President Yoshitake Yokokura, who is said to be close with Abe. It would mark the first time the group has sent a delegation to North Korea for medical assistance purposes.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government appointed former Director of Cabinet Intelligence Shigeru Kitamura on Sept. 13 as the new director of its National Security Council (NSC). During his time heading the Cabinet intelligence organization, Kitamura was involved in backchannel discussions with North Korean officials in Mongolia and elsewhere.

By Cho Ki-weon, Tokyo correspondent

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