Japan doctors in NKorea to examine A-bomb victims

AP News
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Posted: Oct 11, 2011 6:10 AM
Japan doctors in NKorea to examine A-bomb victims

A team of Japanese doctors arrived Tuesday in North Korea to examine victims of the 1945 atomic bombings of Japan, a trip that may help improve dismal ties between the countries.

Footage from Associated Press Television News in Pyongyang showed the doctors being greeted at the airport by North Korean officials. The doctors from the Hiroshima Prefectural Medical Association are expected to be in North Korea until Saturday.

Relations between the two countries are badly frayed. Japan has maintained a tight trade embargo on North Korea since Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Japan also demands that Pyongyang return Japanese citizens North Korea is believed to have kidnapped in the past to train its spies.

Japan is a member of stalled six-nation disarmament talks that center on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. North Korean diplomats have been meeting with their U.S. and South Korean counterparts in recent months to discuss ways to resume the talks, which also involve Russia and China.

A North Korean association of victims said in 2008 that more than 380 survivors of the World War II atomic bombings are alive in the North. Japan agreed in 2002 to aid victims abroad if they can show certificates issued only in Japan. However, almost all North Koreans are restricted from leaving their country.

The North Korean survivors demanded that Tokyo apologize and pay compensation. Some in Tokyo worry that compensation would be diverted to the government in Pyongyang.

North Korean survivors claim that more than 40,000 Koreans were killed in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Another 30,000 Koreans survived, and 2,000 returned to what became North Korea after the Korean peninsula was divided in 1948. Japan colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945.

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Associated Press writer Sam Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.