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The BBC's Juliet Hindell
"It's been seven years since Japan and North Korea attempted to establish diplomatic ties"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 13:53 GMT
Japan to send food to N Korea
Children have been worst hit by North Korea's famine
Japan is to resume sending food aid to North Korea as a prelude to restarting diplomatic talks with Pyongyang next month.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said: "Japan will provide food aid of 100,000 tonnes (of rice) to North Korea through the World Food Programme for humanitarian reasons."

The decision to restore food aid was also made in the hope of encouraging North Korea to respond to the problems between the two countries "with a view to the future", he said.

It will be shipped "as soon as possible", he added.

The resumption of full meetings on normalisation of diplomatic relations will ... contribute to the easing of tension

Mikio Aoki, Chief Cabinet Secretary
The chief cabinet secretary said Japan and North Korea had reached agreement in principle through unofficial contacts to launch full talks on establishing diplomatic ties for the first time.

'Humanitarian viewpoint'

This marks the first time in seven years that the two countries have attempted to establish diplomatic ties. In 1992, talks collapsed after Japan raised the issue of alleged kidnappings of Japanese nationals by North Korea.

"As for negotiations on diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea, full talks will resume in the first half of April," Aoki told a news conference.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said the food aid was being resumed from a "humanitarian viewpoint" despite the row over alleged kidnappings.

"As a matter of course, we must solve the issue of suspected aductions as soon as possible," Obuchi said.

"For that purpose, we must deepen relations with North Korea and make efforts with patience until diplomatic relations are established," he said.

Missile anger

Japan stopped sending food to North Korea two years ago after it carried out a missile test off the Japanese coast. It had previously sent $27m worth of food to Korea, but had said that a resumption of aid depended on normalising ties.

Woman and child
Famine has claimed millions of lives
Remaining sanctions were lifted last December as Japan sought to improve relations with Pyongyang after North Korea announced a moratorium on its missile tests.

Correspondents say the communist government in North Korea appears to be trying to end its diplomatic isolation by forging closer ties with countries like Japan and the United States.

If the talks are successful, it would bring an end to 90 years of antagonism between the two countries since Japan colonised the Korean Penisula in 1910.

North Korea suffered famine after a series of poor harvests in the late 1990s.

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See also:

09 Sep 98 |  Korea at 50
Where famine stalks the land
09 Sep 98 |  Korea at 50
North Korea: a political history
17 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
US eases Korea sanctions
27 Feb 00 |  Americas
Signs of US-North Korean thaw
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