National / Politics

Japan and North Korea officials make contact at international conference in Mongolia

Kyodo

Japanese and North Korean officials made informal contact while attending an international conference in Ulaanbaatar, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Thursday.

Following this week’s summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Japanese government is looking to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Kim to break the deadlock over the abduction issue.

Fumio Shimizu, deputy director general at the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, conveyed to the North Korean side Japan’s position on the abduction issue during the exchange on the sidelines of the two-day gathering through Friday, the official said.

Tokyo is preparing to arrange a summit between Abe and Kim in September in Russia, after Kim expressed his readiness to meet with Abe during the summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, a Japanese government source said on the same day.

The two leaders could meet in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, which Abe is expected to attend. Kim has also been invited by Russia to take part.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently invited Kim to make his first trip to the country since taking power in late 2011, and attending the forum, which is scheduled for Sept. 11-13, could be one opportunity.

During the summit in Singapore on Tuesday, Kim said there are possibilities for him to meet with Abe and that he is “open” to doing so, according to the source.

If a summit is realized, the foreign minister official said, Abe would tell Kim that Japan is ready to normalize bilateral ties and provide economic support to North Korea on condition that Pyongyang resolves comprehensively the outstanding issues of concern including its nuclear and missile development and abductions.

Japan would also pledge to overcome the countries’ “unfortunate past,” the source said, referring to the Japanese occupation of Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.