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WASHINGTON – Just as relations between Japan and South Korea have taken a nosedive over disputed territorial claims, North Korea has decided to take advantage of the differences among its adversaries and meet with Japanese officials in China later this month on repatriation of Japanese remains in North Korea, says a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Relations between Japan and South Korea plummeted after South Korean President Lee Myungbak visited the disputed Dokdo islets in the Sea of Japan.

In reverting to references of World War II, Lee called on Japan to rectify the lingering issue of Korean “comfort women” who were forced to be sex slaves to Japanese forces.

Lee also has called for an apology from Japan’s Emperor Akihito for the years Koreans suffered under Japanese rule. Lee implied that the emperor would not be invited to Seoul unless he did so. To analysts, this has enflamed nationalistic sentiments in Japan.

Japan’s relationship with North Korea has been extensive, primarily through the Chosen Soren, a term applied to generations of North Koreans who reside in Japan.

Upcoming bilateral discussions will be the first for North Korea’s new young leader, Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his father, Kim Jong-il, following his death last December.

Until now, the United States has refused to have direct negotiations with North Korea because of its refusal to renounce its nuclear weapons program and stop its missile development program.

The purpose of the discussions between Japan and North Korea will be on the subject of repatriating the bodies of tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers who died in what today is North Korea.

There are an estimated 20,000 Japanese remains buried in some 70 graves there, according to the Japanese government, which already has repatriated some 13,000 remains.

These Japanese soldiers found themselves in what is North Korea today after escaping from the Japanese-occupied former Manchuria in Northeast China when the Soviet Army invaded it in 1945.

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