Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Koizumi wins few plaudits for summit with North Korea

REUTERS , TOKYO

Five North Korean-born children of Japanese abducted by Pyongyang began a new life with their parents in Japan yesterday but Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi got faint praise for the summit at which he won their release.

Some media saw the summit as a first step toward improving chilly two-way ties. But others said that Koizumi, eager for a diplomatic coup ahead of a July election, compromised too much in his haste to reunite the five children with their parents, who returned to Japan in 2002 after a quarter-century in North Korea.

The five children, three boys and two girls aged 16 to 22, were met by their parents in Tokyo late on Saturday after Koizumi struck a deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at talks in Pyongyang earlier in the day.

"The prime minister may believe that Saturday's summit meeting accomplished at least part of his goal," said the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun in an editorial.

"But the latest meeting made no headway in resolving the abduction, nuclear, missile or any other issues related to Northeast Asia's peace and security," the paper said.

The general public may not be so harsh. Koizumi's popularity jumped after his September 2002 summit with Kim despite domestic media outrage at the outcome.

Kim admitted at his first meeting with Koizumi to the kidnapping of 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies. Five returned to Japan the following month. Pyongyang said the other eight were dead.

On Saturday, Kim agreed to let all eight relatives of the five former abductees leave the reclusive communist state.

Kim also said he wanted a nuclear-arms-free Korean peninsula and reaffirmed a moratorium on ballistic missile launches, Koizumi told a news conference before leaving Pyongyang.

Japan, in turn, offered humanitarian aid to the impoverished country and agreed to hold preliminary talks on resuming negotiations aimed at establishing diplomatic ties.

Koizumi also said Japan would not impose economic sanctions on North Korea as long as Kim kept promises he had made at the two leaders' first summit in September 2002, several of which the North Korean leader has already broken.

The breakthrough in the impasse over the emotive issue of the abductees and their families brought little cheer to Japan.

Some were disappointed that Koizumi did not bring back the two daughters and American husband of abductee Hitomi Soga, Charles Robert Jenkins, who Washington says is an army deserter.

Others were furious that the summit between the two leaders had failed to clarify what happened to other abductees.

"His visit was a fiasco as he made too hasty a decision," Democratic Party leader Katsuya Okada said on a TV talk show.

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