United Nations, Sep 26: Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe said he is willing to meet Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un in a move that could lower simmering tensions between Tokyo and Pyongyang.
PM Abe insisted that any summit with the North Korea must lead to resolution of the regime’s cold war abductions of Japanese citizens, The Guardian stated.
Speaking at the UN general assembly in New York on Tuesday, Abe said he was prepared to make a “new start” in Japan’s relations with the North, months after Donald Trump’s historic meeting with Kim in Singapore.
“North Korea is now at a crossroads at which it will either seize, or fail to seize, the historic opportunity it was afforded,” Abe said.
“In order to resolve the abduction issue, I am also ready to break the shell of mutual distrust with North Korea, get off to a new start and meet face to face with chairman Kim Jong-un.
“But if we are to have one, then I am determined that it must contribute to the resolution of the abduction issue.”
The abductions of dozens of its citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 80s is a highly emotive subject in Japan, which has continued to take a hard line against the regime since Kim committed to work towards denuclearisation.
Japan officially lists 17 of its citizens as having been abducted to teach their language and customs to North Korean spies. In 2002, the North allowed five of them to return to Japan after a summit in Pyongyang between the then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his Japanese counterpart Junichiro Koizumi.
But Japan has never believed North Korean claims that eight of the remaining abductees died and that four more had never entered the country.
It isn’t clear how much progress Abe would be able to make on resolving the abduction issue – his precondition for the normalisation of diplomatic ties and Japanese support for the North Korean economy. Pyongyang has said it believes the issue is closed, and has warned that repeated Japanese attempts to revive it could jeapordise any meeting between Abe and Kim.
Abe’s comments at the UN came after the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, told him Kim had expressed a willingness to meet “at an appropriate time” during their three-day summit in Pyongyang last week.
Moon told Abe he believed better ties between North Korea and Japan would “accelerate” the denuclearisation process, according to Yonhap news agency. “I believe the normalisation of North Korea-Japan relations is required in the process of establishing peace on the Korean peninsula, and I will actively support and cooperate so a North Korea-Japan summit will be held,” Moon said.
Kim has met Trump, Moon and Chinese leader Xi Jinping but had previously expressed no desire for dialogue with Abe. In contrast to the spirit of détente that has developed in its relations with Seoul and Washington, North Korea has lambasted Japan’s lukewarm reaction to denuclearisation and its strong support for continued sanctions.
In its annual defence white paper published last month, Japan claimed the regime poses a “serious and imminent threat” to its security. It said the North’s nuclear capability and ballistic missiles proved that the security environment around Japan was becoming “increasingly severe”.
In an apparent attempt to drive a wedge between Seoul and Tokyo, North Korea recently called on Japan to atone for its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula – a sensitive issue on both sides of the Korean border-and accused it of attempting to play the victim by raising the abduction issue, The Guardian added.
On Monday, Trump said he was looking forward to a second meeting with the “very open and terrific” North Korean leader, to be announced in a “pretty short period of time”. (UNI)