N.Korean officials granted Japan visa for OCA meeting

Posted on : 2011-07-13 15:06 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Observers say the visas may represent a step forward for stalled N.Korea-Japan relations

By Jeong Nam-ku, Tokyo Correspondent 
Three North Korean officials entered Japan Tuesday following the Japanese government’s issuance Monday of visas for five officials hoping to attend a general meeting of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) in Tokyo on Thursday. This marks the first time the Japanese government had admitted North Koreans since October 2006 measures barring their entry.
According to Japanese press reports Tuesday, three officials, including North Korean Olympic Committee vice chairman and vice minister of culture and sports, Son Kwang-ho, arrived at Japan’s Narita Airport via Beijing on Monday night. Two others, including International Olympic Committee member Chang Ung, are scheduled to arrive in Japan on Wednesday from Vienna, Austria.
This is the first Japan visit by North Korean officials since Japan barred the entry of people of North Korean nationality on Oct. 13, 2006, as an independent punishment North Korea’s nuclear test. Four years and nine months have passed since the measures were taken.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Deputy Foreign Minister Yutaka Banno explained the reasoning behind permitting Chang and the other four officials’ entry by saying, “Refusing participation of a particular national council is in conflict with the Olympic Council of Asia charter and could be taken as international sanctions.”
The visas issued to the officials by Japan’s Foreign Ministry are valid through Friday. Observers are taking this to mean that they were issued solely for the purpose of attendance at the OCA meeting Thursday.
Regardless of the factors behind the decision, observers are saying Japan’s permission of entry to North Korean officials bodes well for the resumption of dialogue between the two countries. In a report with a Pyongyang dateline, Kyodo News reported Ro Jong-su, a Japan researcher with North Korea’s Foreign Ministry at the section chief level, as saying in a July 8 interview that he expected this development to work in favor of a breakthrough in the two countries’ stalled relations.
Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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