BEIJING/PYONGYANG — North Korea’s top official in charge of foreign affairs said Pyongyang will continue striving toward the “last goal” of its nuclear and missile development programs, a Japanese parliamentarian revealed Monday following their meeting.Japanese wrestler-turned-lawmaker Antonio Inoki disclosed some of his discussions with Ri Su Yong, a vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, upon his arrival at Beijing’s international airport, shortly after ending his five-day visit to Pyongyang.
Inoki said he agreed with Ri, known as a trusted confidant of leader Kim Jong Un, that Japan and North Korea should not sever lines of communication, even at a time of high tensions following Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.
It is not completely clear what Ri, a former foreign minister who is responsible for shaping the country’s external relations, meant by the “last goal.”
But it could possibly be that he was referring to North Korea’s ultimate goal of deploying a hydrogen bomb-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.
Before leaving for Beijing, Inoki also revealed to Kyodo News in Pyongyang that he proposed a group of Japanese lawmakers’ visit to North Korea to Ri.
“As we all long for peace, for that I have to step into action,” Inoki, donning his trademark red scarf and tie, said.
Meeting the press at Tokyo’s Haneda airport later Monday, Inoki quoted Ri as telling him that North Korea will continue nuclear and missile tests and “bring their levels higher as long as the United States and the international community exert pressure” on the North with U.N. sanctions.
Inoki also said he briefly met North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam during the trip to Pyongyang.
The 74-year-old House of Councillors member, whose real first name is Kanji, does not represent the Japanese government or belong to any political party but has developed uniquely close ties with North Korea.
It was his 32nd visit to North Korea, which coincided with the 69th founding anniversary of the country on Saturday.
The Japanese government has expressed concern over Inoki’s visit, which came after North Korea’s sixth and by far most powerful ever nuclear test on Sept. 3.
The former pro-wrestling star last visited North Korea one year ago, also for its national foundation day, when its fifth nuclear test was conducted.
The Japanese government has strongly advised against all travel to North Korea, with which it has no diplomatic relations.