Japan PM aide in Beijing after Pyongyang trip, says he had 'sincere' talks

TOKYO (AFP) - An aide to Japan's premier said on Friday that he had held "sincere" talks with North Korean officials during his controversial visit to the country.

Mr Isao Iijima, a senior adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was tightlipped about the subjects of his discussions when he arrived at the airport in Beijing.

"By visiting there, I was able to hold sincere talks for a long time," Mr Iijima, a political fixer, told reporters in the Chinese capital, according to Jiji Press.

"I have no plan to grant interviews. I want to closely examine (what was discussed) and consider it," he said.

The Japanese government has refused to discuss Mr Iijima's visit, despite coverage of it by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

South Korea dubbed the trip "unhelpful" to international efforts to forge a united front against Pyongyang, while the United States expressed its surprise and urged Japan to share information.

Mr Iijima was a senior aide to Japan's former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, and is known to have played a role in organising his trips to Pyongyang in 2002 and 2004 for talks with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The North's state media showed footage of Mr Iijima's talks on Thursday with Kim Yong Nam, North's Korea's ceremonial head of state, according to Japan's national broadcaster NHK on Friday.

In it, Mr Kim said he appreciated Mr Iijima's work on bilateral relations.

"I am well aware that you have made efforts for a while. I value it highly," Mr Kim told Mr Iijima in Korean, according to NHK.

Mr Kim's translator was also seen saying in Japanese that Mr Iijima returned to Pyongyang with an extremely important mission, NHK said.

Japanese government ministers, from Prime Minister Abe on down, have refrained from discussing Iijima's visit to the North, including its purpose and the length of his stay.

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