North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho made an offer of dialogue during informal talks with Foreign Minister Taro Kono on the sidelines of regional gatherings in Manila on Aug. 6, it was learned Tuesday.
The move by North Korea apparently reflected its hope that the Japanese government will help it realize direct talks with the U.S. government.
During the conversation, Ri made the dialogue offer after Kono urged North Korea to work out a comprehensive solution to the issues of the country’s nuclear and missile development and its past abductions of Japanese citizens, based on the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration, which was signed by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, a Japanese government official said.
“North Korea apparently wants to hold dialogue with the United States, and for this purpose, it may be considering using Japan,” the official said.
Tokyo and Washington are now working to strengthen international pressure on North Korea in order to persuade the reclusive state to refrain from carrying out its recently announced plan to simultaneously fire ballistic missiles into waters near the U.S. Pacific island of Guam.
The two countries maintain the position of not holding dialogue with North Korea unless it abandons its nuclear arms and missile programs.
During telephone talks on Tuesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump shared the view that the international community should work to boost pressure on North Korea because dialogue for the sake of dialogue would be meaningless.
The two nations are aiming to bolster the bilateral alliance’s deterrent power while demonstrating their unity.
Japan and the U.S. are set to hold “two-plus-two” security talks among their foreign and defense ministers in Washington on Thursday, to be followed by a meeting between the top officers of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military in Tokyo on Friday.
At the same time, the Japanese government is seeing possible signs of a change in North Korea’s hard-line stance as its current leader, Kim Jong Un, has reportedly said during a visit to the command of the Korean People’s Army’s Strategic Force that he would watch U.S. actions for a little while.
Japan is also paying close attention to Pyongyang’s response to China’s trade embargo imposed against North Korea on Tuesday.