During recent talks between North Korea and Japan in Sweden, the North Korean side requested provision of rice and medical supplies as part of any agreement, Kyodo News has reported.
However, Japan, apparently conscious of domestic public opinion as well as relations with the United States and South Korea, said that while it is prepared to approve non-governmental aid and assistance in the first instance, state assistance can only follow verifiable progress on the abductions issue.
In 2004, the last time major progress was made between the North and its former colonial foe, Japan delivered a portion of an agreed 250,000t of food aid, but the remainder was halted when it became apparent that North Korea was not acting in good faith.
The two sides reached their latest agreement on the issue after three days of talks in Stockholm last week. If implementation proceeds as stated, it will result in North Korea establishing a committee to reexamine cases of abduction of Japanese civilians in the 1970s and 80s, and Japan immediately removing some of the unilateral sanctions it imposes on the North that, among other things, prohibit North Korean vessels from entering Japanese ports.
The 20-year old North Korean ferry “Mangyongbong-92” used to travel regularly between Niigata in Japan and the North Korean city of Wonsan, until this was banned in 2006.