According to the Dec. 26 Asahi Shinbun (too bad, Japanese version only):
According to Lower House member Gaku Hashimoto and others [who joined former Lower House Chairman Yohei Kono in his meeting with Chinese State Council Member Tang Jiaxuan], Mr. Tang explained that "they held heated talks that went into great depth." He stated: "During the consultations, the North Korean side said that they were "willing to dismantle the Yongbyon facilities if the US dropped its financial sanctions. They showed an attitude of a measure of concession."
And here I was, spending all weekend trying to say something about the Six-Party Talks without repeating the following:
1) Japan has de facto abductee-issued itself out of the Six-Party Talks.
2) 1) only matters if North Korea decide to take down its nuclear program.
3) 2) only happens if China and South Korea threaten to cut off economic assistance to North Korea.
4) 3) will not happen.
5) The one possible deal that would result in a measure of regional stability would be one where North Korea tacitly freezes its nuclear weapons-cum-delivery program as the US drops its financial sanctions after confirming that North Korea has stopped engaging in the counterfeiting and drug trades.
How little I knew.
The Yomiuri version tells a similar story, but cites "a person (persons?) belonging to The Association for the Promotion of International Trade, Japan (JAPIT), a Japan-China trade association that is currently headed by Mr. Kono. Mr. Hashimoto is listed as an advisor on the JAPIT website.
And here's the Mainichi version, which gives no indication who did the briefing.
Mr. Hashimoto is by all accounts a highly intelligent, very personable young man, who, although son of ex-Prime Minister Hashimoto, actually was born and raised in his inherited Okayama electoral district; and got into Keio, his father's alma mater, the harder way (i.e. college entrance exams). Perhaps something was lost in translation.
So Mr. Kono, the Lower House Chairman and only LDP president in history who did not get to serve as prime minister, goes to China as head of a bilateral exchange association, somebody in his entourage gives a press briefing, and the only thing worthy of note coming out it is Mr. Tang's alleged take on North Korea's take on the Yongbyon facilities? That is very Good News.
Merry Christmas to anybody reading this in the right time zones.