Japanese chef dishes on North Korean leader and missile launch
'It’s hard to understand why surrounding countries are so sensitive,' says Kenji Fujimoto, who left North Korea in 2001 but returned for a visit last summer at Kim Jong-un’s invitation.
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“Though on the surface, it seems North Korea is taking a very adversarial position,” he says, “there is the feeling North Korea wants to clasp hands as soon as possible.” He adds, for emphasis, “that feeling exists toward Japan as well.”Skip to next paragraph
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Japanese leaders, however, clearly do not subscribe to this view.
The central government has sent detailed confidential messages to local officials outlining how to respond “if flying objects should drop on the mainland” as a result of the missile shot. The message states that North Korea has said the missile will fly over the Yellow Sea on a trajectory past the Philippine islands but outlines precautions in case it veers over Japan. (Read more about North Korea's prep for a rocket launch, despite international warnings)
Fujimoto says Kim Jong-un invited him back to North Korea with warm memories of their friendship from when Kim Jong-un was a child. In answer to a question about Kim Jong-un's age, the topic of much speculation, he says's he's 29 and will turn 30 on Jan. 8.
Fujimoto married a North Korean woman, but she remained in the North when he returned to Tokyo in 2001 on what was to have been a mission to purchase food to satisfy the tastes of Kim Jong-il.
Kim Jong-un greeted Fujimoto with a hug and a handshake in July and hosted a welcome banquet attended by Mr. Jang and North Korea's ambassador to Switzerland, where Kim Jong-un had gone to school for several years, he says. Fujimoto gives the impression, however, that he did not discuss policy issues deeply with his host.
Although the visit seemed to have been a success, Fujimoto's access remains uncertain. He was to have gone again in September but delayed the trip for a week at the request of Japan's foreign ministry.
He said that an official had asked him to wait while the government prepared a letter for him to carry on behalf of Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. At the end of the week, however, the official said Mr. Noda had decided not to send a letter, and the North Korean Embassy in Beijing then turned him down when he showed up expecting to get a visa.
Fujimoto says he trusts Kim Jong-un, however, to receive him again. During his latest visit, he says, “I heard many people saying Kim Jong-un is the best.” He believes “this young leader has a great will that he wants to solve problems” and that he “has the ability to change North Korea little by little.”