Tokyo, Mar 7 : Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is willing to hold direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to break a deadlock over the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North decade ago.
"I have to meet face-to-face with Chairman Kim Jong Un to resolve this issue," Abe said on Wednesday at the outset of a meeting with family members of abduction victims.
The meeting comes a week after President Donald Trump took up the topic during the second US-North Korean summit in Hanoi, and relayed Japan's stance over the issue to Kim at Abe's request. Trump did so at his first meeting with Kim last June in Singapore as well.
"I want to settle the issue in accordance with our basic policy that we will not miss any chance," the premier said.
Abe was briefed by Trump on what was discussed during the Hanoi summit over the phone hours after the meeting ended without tangible progress toward the North's denuclearisation.
Tokyo and Pyongyang have not normalized diplomatic ties due to the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Abe has made addressing it one of his administration's top priorities.
"We have a high hope for the meeting (between Abe and Kim) happening," 80-year-old Shigeo Iizuka, who heads a group of the family members, said during the meeting with the prime minister.
Japan officially recognizes 17 citizens, including Iizuka's younger sister Yaeko Taguchi, as having been kidnapped by North Korea and suspects the country's involvement in many more disappearances.
Five of the 17 returned home in 2002, but Pyongyang claims eight died and aother four were never in the country.