An annual U.N. General Assembly gathering in late September may offer an opportunity for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to hold bilateral talks if Kim is invited to deliver a speech there, Japanese government sources said Thursday.
Tokyo is working to arrange the first Japan-North Korea summit in more than a decade to resolve outstanding bilateral issues including the North’s past abduction of Japanese nationals, getting a boost from the historic talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore on Tuesday.
An annual economic forum to be held in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok in mid-September is also seen as a possible chance for Abe and Kim to get together, the sources said.
But the government has decided that it needs a plan B because it is not clear whether Kim will attend the forum, which is scheduled only days after North Korea’s national foundation day on Sept. 9, according to the sources.
The Japanese government believes there is a possibility that Kim will be invited to the U.N. General Assembly meeting by Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“The purpose will be to make Mr. Kim pledge to the world about (North Korea’s) complete denuclearization in his speech and ensure that he will work toward that end,” one of the sources said, referring to the commitment Kim made during his talks with Trump.
The alternative plan will be to arrange a summit on the sidelines of the general debate of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, where world leaders gather to make speeches, the sources said.
On Thursday, Japanese and North Korean officials made informal contact while attending an international conference in Ulaanbaatar, a Foreign Ministry official said.
If the Abe-Kim summit is realized, it will be the first meeting between Japanese and North Korean leaders since 2004. The last summit was held between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Kim Jong Il, the current North Korean leader’s father, in Pyongyang.
The issue of the abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s has prevented Tokyo and Pyongyang from normalizing diplomatic ties. Not much progress has been seen since five of the abductees were repatriated in 2002.
Japan also wants to make sure that North Korea gets rid of all its ballistic missiles — not just intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, but also its shorter-range missiles that threaten Japan.