Japan briefed the United States on Thursday about the surprise visit to North Korea by an adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
After meeting with his Japanese counterpart in Tokyo, Glyn Davies, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said he hopes to gain more “insights” into Isao Iijima’s unannounced trip in the coming days.
Iijima met Thursday with North Korea’s No. 2 leader, Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The trip, apparently an effort to resolve the issue over North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, has raised concerns that Japan could be seen as acting alone, while the United States and South Korea continue to pressure Pyongyang over its nuclear arms and missile threats.
“I have begun the process of learning a bit more about (Iijima’s trip),” Davies told reporters after meeting with Shinsuke Sugiyama, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.
“I think we have some days to wait for all of us before we know there are any results from this mission . . . we obviously will look forward to hearing from the government of Japan more details about this in (the) coming days,” he said.
While South Korea has criticized the Japanese move as “not helpful,” given the importance of coordinating a united front by Washington, Seoul and Tokyo against Pyongyang, Davies said, “I’m not going to address it in that way.”
Reiterating that Washington takes the abduction issue very seriously and stands “firmly” with Japan and its people, he said he wants to put the “accent” on the strength and solidarity of bilateral ties.
“I hope that in that spirit, the United States and Japan can continue to work together very closely on this exceedingly important issue of North Korea in all of its aspects going forward,” he said.
During Thursday’s meeting, Sugiyama and Davies agreed that the door to dialogue with North Korea is always open, but that it should be aimed at denuclearization, the Foreign Ministry said.
The Japanese and U.S. point men on North Korean affairs also agreed on the importance of closely coordinating moves by Japan, the United States and South Korea to bring North Korea back into negotiations to end its nuclear arms threat, according to the ministry.
Davies conceded to reporters after the meeting that Iijima’s trip was news to him, saying, “I had not heard about it, so I think that answer that I gave speaks for itself in terms of the extent to which there had been any coordination ahead of time.”
Iijima was a top aide to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who visited Pyongyang for historic talks with the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2002 and 2004.
Davies arrived in Japan on Thursday after visiting Seoul and Beijing.