North Korea has threatened Japan over Tokyo’s policy of heaping pressure on its nuclear-armed neighbor, saying it “may not get a ticket for Pyongyang” if it continues, remarks that come just days after Japanese government sources said the country is exploring the possibility of a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Now is a high time that Japan meditated over its policy toward the DPRK, facing up to the trend of the times for itself,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary late Saturday, using the country’s formal name.
“We have already warned that the Japanese reactionaries may not get a ticket for Pyongyang if they go ill-natured without discretion. It would be wise for them to stop useless struggling and follow the trend of the times, before it is too late,” it added.
A Kyodo News report last week quoting an unnamed high-ranking official at Abe’s office, said the government believes “direct dialogue with the top — Mr. Kim Jong Un — is essential” if Tokyo is to achieve Abe’s goal of retrieving Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and ’80s.
The apparent shift would represent a drastic break from the prime minister’s long-held position that more pressure is needed to force Pyongyang to the negotiating table.
It was unclear if the timing of his revised tack was due to fears of being marginalized on the North Korean issue or if an ongoing document-tampering scandal that has re-emerged to threaten his grip on power had played a role in the change.
Abe’s top ally, U.S. President Donald Trump, accepted an invitation earlier this month to meet Kim by the end of May — a stunning and unexpected announcement that came as the two historic adversaries dial back threats of nuclear annihilation and attempt to reach a deal on the issue of scrapping the North’s nuclear weapons program.
Trump’s decision came weeks after top North Korean officials attending the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics extended an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to meet Kim.
The leaders of the two Koreas are to meet on the heavily fortified border next month, at the truce village of Panmunjom.
While the Abe administration — a leading supporter of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Pyongyang — has insisted it remains in lockstep with the White House on North Korea, it has increasingly found itself on the outside looking in amid the thaw in intra-Korean ties and summit agreements.
The North has worked to exploit the fissures in trilateral relations involving Japan, the U.S. and South Korea.
Saturday’s KCNA commentary lambasted Japan, saying it had “zealously” urged close cooperation among the three on the North Korean nuclear issue, but “faced only serious concern over estrangement.”
“Still now, the Japanese reactionaries are making a shrill cry demanding ‘sanctions and pressure on the DPRK,’ indicative of their extreme uneasiness over their frustration,” the commentary added.