Seoul, South Korea — North Korea's agreement Sunday on a new format for bilateral negotiations with Japan was motivated mainly by Pyongyang's desire for Tokyo to act as a go-between in a bid to break the political impasse between North Korea and the United States, according to diplomatic sources. North Korea hopes the negotiations eventually will lead to the normalization of diplomatic relations with Japan.
North Korea has reacted angrily to sanctions that the United States has imposed on a Macau-based bank. The United States alleges that the Macanese bank, Banco Delta Asia, is involved in money laundering and other illegal activities on behalf of Pyongyang.
The Dec. 6 edition of Rodon Shinmun, North Korea's state-run newspaper, said it would not be possible to resume six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program until Washington agreed to hold discussions on lifting financial sanctions against North Korea.
North Korea, apparently believing that chances for a compromise with the United States in the near future are slim, has turned to Japan to help it find a way out of the deadlock, the sources said.
Pyongyang's agreement on the new negotiating format also is thought to be aimed at paving the way for obtaining economic assistance from Tokyo, they said. The new format involves the creation of three working groups that will discuss key issues in parallel, including the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s.
The Japan-North Korea joint declaration adopted at the end of the September 2002 bilateral summit in Pyongyang stated that Japan would provide North Korea with aid grants and yen loans after the normalization of bilateral ties.
North Korea has repeatedly expressed its dissatisfaction over the complete absence of progress on the normalization issue since the 2002 declaration.
Although North Korea's food situation is said to have recently eased somewhat, its economy is still thought to be in dire straits, the sources said.
Pyongyang, once the planned working-level discussions commence, will seek large-scale economic assistance from Tokyo by demanding compensation for Japan's actions during World War II, they said.