Mr. Numata: As far as I know, the representatives at the Red Cross-Red Cross talks between Japan and North Korea resumed their meeting at about two o'clock. As I understand it, the Red Cross representatives, along with members of both the Government of Japan and the Government of North Korea participated in the process. They met first on 19 December in a sort of full session and throughout yesterday they were carrying out informal consultations on and off. These informal consultations lasted until this morning and they had a meeting again this afternoon from about two o'clock. They have been discussing humanitarian issues of concern to their respective sides, namely the question of the homecoming visits of the Japanese spouses of North Korean nationals, the issue of what we call the abduction cases or what the North Korean side calls the cases of missing Japanese nationals and also the question of food shortage in North Korea. We are hoping that these consultations which have lasted for about two days will be yielding some results.
Questions regarding the resumption of talks in North Korea and matters relating to the signing of an agreement at the Red Cross-Red Cross talks
Q: What was the hold up before?
Mr. Numata: Both sides have expressed their concerns and have been engaged in this process of trying to see whether they can wrap up the discussion which has take place from the day before yesterday until today and perhaps they are putting their finishing touches on it.
Q: Can you give some more information regarding the possible preliminary talks for the normalization negotiations?
Mr. Numata: The plan is for the preliminary talks toward the resumption of the normalization negotiations to take place after the Red Cross-Red Cross consultations. As soon as the Red Cross-Red Cross talks are over we will be assessing the results and working toward the holding of the preliminary talks between the Japanese and North Korean authorities. All this is an ongoing process so I think we will have to wait until the Red Cross-Red Cross talks are over before we can accurately say exactly what sort of talks may be going on.
I can tell you this much. The Red Cross-Red Cross talks were resumed this afternoon at two o'clock Japan time and the representatives of both sides signed a document which contained the points of agreement on such questions as the missing Japanese nationals and the question of possible food aid to North Korea and also the homecoming visit of the Japanese spouses of North Korean nationals. I can tell you that much. I have not got the details of their agreement yet.
Q: Have they signed the agreement?
Mr. Numata: That is what I have just heard, yes.
Q: What is going to happen to the preparatory talks?
Mr. Numata: With this out of the way, I think that the representatives on the government side will be in touch with each other with a view to starting preliminary talks on normalization.
I can now give you the gist of what they signed and announced. Rather, let me do it this way. I will give it to you in the form of the wrap-up of the Red Cross-Red Cross talks. As I said, the Japanese Red Cross and the North Korean Red Cross met in Beijing from 19-21 December on the basis of the Joint Statement issued on the occasion of the mission to Pyong Yang of former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama. The meeting was attended by the government representatives of both sides as well. In these meetings both sides talked in a constructive and good atmosphere about humanitarian issues of concern to each side. They talked about the homecoming visits of Japanese spouses of North Korean nationals, the accounting for the so- called missing Japanese nationals, food aid and the cases of Korean nationals who went missing before 1945. Each side developed a deeper understanding of the perception of the other and although the meeting went beyond the time frame originally scheduled, they were able to make the following joint announcement.
Firstly, they confirmed that the homecoming visits of Japanese spouses of North Korean nationals will be resumed sometime next spring. Secondly, with respect to the abduction issue, that is what the North Korean side calls the cases of missing persons, the North Korean side is to ask the relevant agencies in North Korea to carry our serious investigation. With respect to food assistance, the North Korean side explained the recent food situation in North Korea and the Japan Red Cross is to ask the Government of Japan to start food aid at a possible early date and the Government of Japan is to consider this question of food aid. Further, the North Korean side raised the question of accounting for those Korean people who went missing before 1945, and both sides are to work toward the resolution of this issue. Both sides finished the meeting in a good atmosphere and they are to meet again as necessary. Those are the main points of the announcement and I think the same points will be in the wire services now. We await news about the preliminary talks.