Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has no plans to visit North Korea in September to break a stalemate with the country, the government said Monday in rebuttal to a newspaper report, but it left the door open to such a trip if conditions become favorable.
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun business daily reported in its Sunday edition that the government is negotiating with North Korea for a possible second Pyongyang visit by Koizumi in September in an effort to achieve a breakthrough in now-stalled talks over Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese and its nuclear weapons program.
Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met in Pyongyang last September.
“I have heard nothing about it,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said at a regular news conference Monday morning. “I can say to you clearly that nothing like that is going on.”
While Fukuda repeatedly said the government is not considering a Koizumi trip to North Korea at the moment, he said it would be a “different story if there is an environment” for a future visit.
“The abduction issue can be resolved at any time if North Korea has the will to do so,” Fukuda said.
Koizumi’s Pyongyang visit last September led to North Korea’s admission that it had abducted several Japanese and to the return of five. of the kidnapped to Japan in October. The government has since been demanding that the North let the family members of the five to come to Japan, to no avail.
“We have not received a concrete response,” Fukuda said. “We’ll continue issuing this demand until we get them back.”
Koizumi also flatly denied that he is planning a Pyongyang visit or that he is even contemplating one.