Updated: 01/17/2014 01:39 | By Agence France-Presse

Japanese lawmaker says N. Korea 'calm' after visit

A Japanese professional wrestler-turned-lawmaker who has just spent several days in North Korea said Thursday the secretive communist state seemed "calm" despite a leadership purge last month.


Japanese lawmaker says N. Korea 'calm' after visit

Former Japanese professional wrestler and a Japanese parliament member Antonio Inoki speaks to reporters as he returns from North Korea at the Tokyo international airport on January 16, 2014 - by Yoshikazu Tsuno

Asked if Pyongyang felt tense, Antonio Inoki said "Not much."

"It was calm," he told Japanese media at Beijing airport during a stopover on his way back to Japan.

Inoki, a frequent visitor to North Korea, met Jang Song-Thaek, the now-deceased uncle of North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-Un, there in November. 

Jang, long considered Kim's key adviser, was purged and executed last month after being branded a counter-revolutionary.

During his latest four-day trip to North Korea, the 70-year-old Inoki, an opposition member of the upper house, met with Kim Yong-Il, director of the International Department of the North Korean Workers Party, and other officials.

"They gave me some explanation about how the purge had taken place," Inoki said, without elaborating.

Inoki heads a non-profit organisation aimed at establishing sports-based exchanges between the two countries and which opened an office in Pyongyang last month.

He said he was given an "official" document by North Korea indicating it would accept a group of Japanese lawmakers in Pyongyang in the future, according to Kyodo news agency.

Inoki also said he discussed arrangements for future sports exchanges between the two countries, according to Kyodo.

Inoki, whose mentor in professional wrestling was the late Korean-born Mitsuhiro Momota, aka Rikidozan, has visited North Korea nearly 30 times since 1994.

In 1995, he organised a sports festival in Pyongyang featuring bouts between Japanese and American pro wrestlers.

"I have suggested doing a festival again like the one we had in 1995," Inoki told the reporters. "Why don't you all go there first of all? Only what you do matters, not what you utter."

The Tokyo government, which does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, has advised its citizens to refrain from visiting North Korea as part of its stance on the communist state's nuclear bomb programme and missile tests, as well as its perceived refusal to come clean on abductions of Japanese during the Cold War.

Inoki's low-profile visit came days after flamboyant former basketball player Dennis Rodman caused international controversy with a trip to visit his "friend for life" Kim, singing "Happy Birthday" on a basketball court ahead of a special exhibition game.

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