The Yomiuri ShimbunJapanese and North Korean government officials have met and held talks several times behind the scenes to try to arrange a summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The talks are thought to be advance negotiations on issues such as resolving the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
The government is considering several proposals, including a visit by Abe to Pyongyang in or around August or talks between the leaders on the sidelines of an international conference in September.
According to several government sources, highly secret discussions between Japanese and North Korean officials have been held since spring, when the possibility of a U.S.-North Korea summit meeting surfaced.
Given that U.S. President Donald Trump raised the abduction issue with Kim at their meeting Tuesday, the government plans to step up arrangements for a Japan-North Korea summit meeting while carefully watching U.S.-North Korea talks on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Abe also expressed a strong desire to hold talks with Kim, saying: “We must have direct meetings with North Korea and resolve [the abduction issue].”
Senior Foreign Ministry officials plan to contact North Korean officials attending a two-day international conference in Mongolia that started Thursday.
Abe hopes more in-depth talks will be conducted with North Korea through an “intelligence agency route” centered on the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, which is headed by Cabinet Intelligence Director Shigeru Kitamura, a former National Police Agency official.
If finalizing a visit by Abe to North Korea in or around August becomes difficult, the government also will consider coordinating a meeting with Kim at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, in mid-September, on the assumption that Kim will attend the forum.
Kim has indicated he is prepared to hold a dialogue with Japan, but North Korea has officially maintained its position that the abduction issue has been “resolved.”
While some government officials believe attaining clear prospects for a “final resolution” of this issue should be a condition for the summit meeting, others prefer a step-by-step progression toward a settlement, which would involve several summit meetings without a set time frame.
The government believes the minimum condition for holding the summit meeting will be securing an effective reinvestigation into the fates of the abductees.
This could include having Japan participate in an investigation.
If the Abe-Kim meeting comes to fruition, it would mark the first Japan-North Korea summit since then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il held talks in 2004.
Abe plans to tell Kim that if the abduction, nuclear and missile issues are comprehensively resolved, Tokyo will provide economic assistance and normalize diplomatic relations with Pyongyang based on the 2002 Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration.
Kim positive on Japan talks
SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed a positive view toward meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Tuesday’s summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
At the meeting with Kim, Trump recommended that the North Korean leader hold a summit meeting with Abe when the president raised the need to resolve the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals, a source knowledgeable about U.S.-North Korea relations said.