The government is considering holding informal talks with North Korea on the sidelines of an international security forum in Mongolia next week after the historic U.S.-North Korea summit is held, government sources said Friday.
Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to hold direct talks with North Korea, Tokyo hopes to lay the groundwork for such a meeting to focus on the abduction issue, according to the sources.
Abe has placed priority on resolving the issue and U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to raise it during Tuesday’s momentous meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
Japan plans to send a senior official from the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau to the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue from June 14 to 15.
On the fringes of the security forum, the official at the deputy director-general level is expected to speak with a senior official from the Disarmament and Peace Institute, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry think tank, the sources said. The Mongolian government has been serving as an intermediary.
Tokyo is expected to explore contacts with Pyongyang in the months ahead.
The most immediate opportunity may come next week, when the U.S.-North Korean summit takes place in Singapore, because the government plans to send Abe’s national security adviser, Shotaro Yachi, and Kenji Kanasugi, head of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.
In August, a meeting of their foreign ministers could be arranged between Japan and North Korea on the sidelines of an international meeting in Singapore.
If Kim, at Russia’s invitation, takes part in an economic forum in September in Vladivostok in the Russian Far East, Abe may seek to meet him there.
The Japanese government would use the third-country setting to explore the possibility of holding an Abe-Kim summit in either Tokyo or Pyongyang.
“I would like to directly face North Korea and talk with (Kim) so as to achieve an early resolution of the abduction issue,” Abe said Thursday after meeting with Trump at the White House.
Since Trump revealed in March that he intended to meet with Kim, Tokyo has conveyed through multiple channels to Pyongyang that it hopes to resume bilateral talks.
Japan will urge North Korea to follow through on a 2014 bilateral agreement under which Pyongyang agreed to reinvestigate the whereabouts of all of the abductees, the sources said.
It is also expected to explain its basic stance that the normalization of bilateral ties and the extension of economic support will not come unless the abduction, nuclear and missile issues are resolved in a comprehensive manner, according to the sources.