Senior N. Korean diplomat no show at Beijing airport

By 신현희
  • Published : Apr 5, 2014 - 16:24
  • Updated : Apr 5, 2014 - 16:24

BEIJING (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean diplomat in charge of talks to normalize relations with Japan did not arrive in Beijing on Saturday, despite a Japanese media report that Pyongyang and Tokyo would hold informal high-level talks here over the weekend.

North Korean delegation, including Ambassador Song Il-ho, the North's chief negotiator in the normalization talks with Japan, did not show at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Saturday, and no flight between Pyongyang and Beijing was scheduled for Sunday.

Earlier in the day, Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun reported that North Korea and Japan would hold two-day informal talks from Saturday in Beijing at the request of the North.

Song and his Japanese counterpart, Junichi Ihara, held two-day talks in Beijing earlier this week, resuming their high-level talks in more than a year.

After the Beijing talks, Song warned that government-level talks between North Korea and Japan aimed at improving ties would fail if a prime real estate in Tokyo, owned by a Japan-based pro-Pyongyang Korean residents' group, is auctioned off.

At issue is a 13-story building and the land upon which it stands in central Tokyo, which has been used by Chongryon, a pro-Pyongyang Korean residents' group in Japan, as its head office since the early 1950s. The group represents about one-fourth of an estimated 700,000 Koreans living in Japan, a legacy of Japan's colonization of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-45.

In the absence of formal ties between the two countries, Chongryon's head office has served as the North's de facto diplomatic mission in Japan.

The building has been put up for sale for several years after being seized by a Tokyo court over unpaid debts. Last week, the property was auctioned off to a Japanese real estate firm for $22 million.